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We're currently bringing our 9 year old white schnauzer cross to the vet for treatment for arthritis. It primarily affects his rear left leg at the moment, but we're told it may affect his other joints- we're working on reducing his weight, he's on medication that supposedly lubricates his joints, and some painkillers at the moment. He's improving slowly, and we're making progress this bout but this is a recurring issue that seems to be getting worse.

I've also re-arranged his sleeping arrangements so he's out of the draft from the air conditioner, and he has plenty of soft surfaces to lie on (though, he generally has his front end on pillows, and rear end on the floor). I generally don't need to worry about the cold except in wet weather since I live in the tropics, but I've been discouraging him gently from lying in colder places, and he avoids drafts anyway.

In addition to medical care, and weight control, what can I do to make my dog's life easier, especially when he's actively having issues with the leg?

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    I would ask your vet about what activities he can participate in. Even though he has arthritis, he still may want something fun to do to stay mentally active. Perhaps swimming or scent-work would be easier on the joints?
    – jeffaudio
    Jul 10 '14 at 12:01
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If your dog is used to hanging out in higher places (such as on the couch/chairs/elevated bed), but the arthritis is preventing him from being able to safely jump to/from such places, there are special "dog stairs" and "dog ramps" that you can purchase and set up to allow him access to those type of spots without jumping.

We used this when our puppy could jump up onto the couch (which we were fine with), but was too scared to jump down... the stairs allowed her to get back to ground level safely. Though I don't remember the name of the product itself, it was marketed for older dogs with joint problems and leg pain, so it should fit your needs.

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  • Having a ramp is a good idea and could be made very easily and cheaply if you have access to some saws. Cover some wood with leftover carpet scraps if you have them or colorful shelf liner to help improve traction and appearance. For an outdoor ramp, paint it, add a layer of sand while wet, and then paint it again after dry for a durable non-skid surface.
    – jeffaudio
    Jul 11 '14 at 0:41
  • My dog has a fear of heights - he usually handles stairs ok (we carry him now, much to his annoyance) so jumping up onto things hasn't been an issue. Jul 11 '14 at 14:07
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Apparently massaging our dog helps loads - we've seen a huge improvement as a compliment to the treatment he's getting from the vet. I've basically adapted this method though for a much smaller dog.

We've placed carpets on some hard flooring which helps with warmth, better traction and cushioning.

We're also intentionally keeping him walking on all 4s rather than running on threes where possible. He had a short period pre-massages where things seemed to be getting worse.

I do find that we have trouble with outside stairs - dog wants to do them, but I'm worried about the impact - I'm taking advantage of disabled ramps where I can

Bit of an update - 3 years on... he's actually doing better than he did before. We've been working on weight reduction on and off though he's been stably slightly overweight for the past few years. I suspect a few factors helped.

  1. Its just that leg. His other legs have been fine so far. This kind of ties into our old theory that its cause of a fall as a puppy

  2. We're doing a better job at pacing. Human-dog communication is so important. I can tell him to slow down if he's pushing too hard and bouncing tripodially, and he can request to get carried if he really cant. Takes advantage of it too, the little knave. At some point, he kinda knows what routes are 'long enough' and I just trust him to it

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If you can give him a choice of pillows to lie on, then he can choose the one he finds most comfortable. I find that the pillows and pads sold in pet stores are very thin, and overpriced. The best thing I found for my arthritic dog was one of my old pillows. Once the pillow had gone too flat for my taste, it was just right for my dog. You don't even have to sew a cover for it, just put two old pillowcases on it. Put them on in different directions (i.e., if you're facing the pillow, put one case on left-to-right, and the second one on right-to-left).

It sounds like you're putting the pillows directly on the floor, rather than in some sort of basket/bed. That's good. He would probably find the sides of a basket difficult to negotiate.

Observe him while he eats and drinks. You might want to put the bowls on top of something so that he doesn't have to stoop.

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