Doggie Arthritis

My 9-year-old Lab, Vinnie, has arthritis and barely wants to play ball anymore. What can I do?

Start with his weight. Labs are prone to chubbiness, and maintaining a healthy weight reduces pain and increases joint function, says Carol Osborne, DVM, in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. When you run your hands over your dog’s body, you should be able to feel (but not see) each rib. If Vinnie’s carrying around some extra pounds, work with your vet to help him shed that weight—he’ll feel a lot better. Like humans, dogs may also benefit from taking glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, starting as young as 2 years old. Work with a holistic vet to establish the right dose for your dog. You can also:

Stretch your dog’s limbs by gently pulling them several times daily. This can increase his range of motion by 10 percent to 15 percent, says Osborne.
Take him on easy walks each day to increase functionality and reduce pain.
Try water therapy. It provides non-weight-bearing exercise and promotes deep relaxation. (Caninewatertherapy.com lists pools nationwide where you and your dog can work with a trained therapist.) But even a gentle swim at the local pond can be good for Vinnie’s sore joints as long as the water isn’t too cold. But don’t overdo it. “A minute of swimming is roughly equivalent to a five-minute walk,” says Jody Chiquoine, a nurse and certified canine rehabilitation therapist in Lee, Massachusetts.
See a veterinary acupuncturist. Acupuncture increases circulation of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and joints, decreasing cell degeneration. It also relieves pain and may increase strength by stimulating the muscles and nerves.