As coronavirus sweeps the world, almost every business is forced to shut its doors to stop the virus spreading and keep people safe. Unfortunately, some pets are reliant on therapy to maintain strength, improve suppleness and keep them comfortable and no longer have access to Physiotherapy or Hydrotherapy whilst in social isolation.
Fortunately, the lockdown means many of you are at home for most of the day with your beloved pets - and there's lots you can do to keep them ticking over until you're able to get back to your therapist.
1. Environmental Adaptions
Wooden, tile and laminate flooring is a common choice in the household - easy to clean, especially with those muddy pawprints and occasional accidents. However, as your pet gets older, slippery flooring can make it very difficult for them to move about as arthritis causes loss of stability. This also risks injury from legs giving out causing sprains and strains. Thankfully, there is no need to employ a carpenter and spend fortunes on adaptations, as there are simple things you can do/buy to help:
Non-slip matting: Like you would have in the bathroom, rugs and mats with rubber undersides are a simple fix to enable your pet move around more easily
Pet socks: These may take some getting used to, but 'slipper socks' for pets provide rubber grips to improve stability
Claw grips: I do not personally know of anyone who has tried these, but these rubber grips are available cheaply online and clip onto the claws to provide stability, better for those who won't tolerate socks
If your pet is struggling to jump up on the furniture, this puts them at great risk of injury and a huge amount of strain on their spine and joints.
Ensure there are pet beds on the floor of the rooms your pet likes to sleep in, orthopaedic ‘memory foam’ beds are particularly comfortable for arthritic joints
If your dog is persistent on sleeping on the bed/sofa, make or invest in a ramp or steps to make it easier for them (provided they are able to manage this safely)
If your dog is struggling to do the stairs, stop them. If they are small enough for you to carry without risking injury to yourself, carry them up and down. Otherwise, restrict them to downstairs living. Invest in a baby gates so you are able to control where they go. It may seem sad, but it is certainly 100% better than the injuries they may sustain from a fall down the stairs.
Do not let your dog jump in and out of the car if they are struggling. It may just be a slight hesitance before leaping up, but this is enough to tell you it is not easy for them anymore. Again, if they are small enough you can lift them in and out – if they are larger breeds there are plenty of car ramps/steps available on the market. The forces placed through their joints and spine from jumping in and out of the car is huge, and extremely risky if they have muscle wastage or joint pain.
Raised food/water bowls encourage a more neutral position and shift the centre of gravity backwards, this reduces the stress on forelimbs and the neck and spine
Your dog will tell you how much exercise they need. If they are stiff or lame after a walk, or the morning after – it is likely they are having too much exercise. If you hear their claws dragging on the tarmac, again they are likely having too much and the joints are too tired to swing the limbs through. This is particularly important in the current Covid-19 situation, as many dogs are being walked more than normal as their owner’s ‘daily exercise’ and in some cases by multiple members of the household.
Slow lead walks are very beneficial for arthritis, as they encourage the dog to shift their weight back and strengthen the hindlimbs, as they will often load the forelimbs and pull themselves along. The dog’s natural gait is ‘trot’ so it is important to slow right down, and the smaller your dog – the slower you’ll go! Slow lead walks also allow the dog to use each individual limb rather than use momentum and gravity to swing through, and really lift through the joints.
Lots of off lead running/playing, especially the start-stop of chasing a ball, can seriously aggravate pain and stiffness. This doesn’t mean stop altogether, as it’s likely your pet’s favourite time of day! Just reduce the amount of off-lead activity if your pet is getting stiff.
Dependent on your dog, certain exercises can help them. However, these would need to be prescribed by your physiotherapist as doing them incorrectly or overdoing them can be detrimental.
Heat is particularly good for arthritis, as it enables the muscles to relax and encourages synovial fluid in the joints to improve suppleness and fluidity. It should not be used however, if the joint is hot or swollen - in which case you can use an ice pack for the same time/frequency but with a wet interface.
Wheatpack – in the microwave and placed over the affected joints
Hot water bottle with a dry interface (never place directly without an interface as this can cause burns) over affected joints
Warm bath – with the water at a height level to submerge the affected joints
It is important to note, that heat should only be applied for 10-15 minutes with 4 hour intervals. It is most effective if used 3-4x a day – so after each of your mealtimes at home – pop a heat pack on!
Make sure you pop your pet on a joint supplement such as YuMove, it may take a few weeks to get into their system but this can really help keep them supple and comfortable. If your pet is really struggling, they may need to be put on anti-inflammatory medication such as Metacam, so speak to your veterinarian.
In summary, just small changes can make such a big difference to your pet - keeping them happy and comfortable. Make use of this extra time at home by treating them regularly - and most of all, keep safe everyone.