With no cure for arthritis, dog arthritis treatment can include surgery, diet, exercise, weight management, medications, supplements and making physical adjustments to your pet’s surroundings.
While each of these is important to helping your pet stay healthy and active, perhaps the most critical issues for Bichon Frises are weight management and lack of exercise.
Fortunately you can address these two issues easily.
So, if your dog has a diagnosis of arthritis, let’s look at ways you can help her. Below we’ll discuss:
- Medications and supplements
- Weight control
- Physical accommodations
I have included links to various products, to show you examples. You can buy these items, if you’d like. Most of the links go to Amazon or Wayfair, and I do receive a small commission for any purchases. Your cost remains the same as always, with no added amount.
Medications and Supplements
With any illness or condition, most people automatically think of a quick fix—medicines or supplements. Your vet will probably suggest something to help with the pain, stiffness and inflammation.
You should discuss medications with your vet, as some human medicines can cause problems with dogs.
Because Bichon Frises are small dogs, the amount of medicine you give your dog is important, so that you don’t accidentally overdose him and hurt him.
Some of the medicines that your vet may recommend:
- Glucosamine sulfate with MSM
- NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) – can damage the kidneys. NSAIDs need to be taken with food, as they can cause poor appetite, vomiting and stomach ulcers.
- Buffered aspirin
- Anti-inflammatory drugs like Rimadyl, Etogesic or Dermaxx – Rimadyl puts extra stress on your dog’s liver. If your dog takes Rimadyl, she will need to have a blood test every 6 weeks to check on her liver function. This is mostly an issue with Labrador Retrievers.
- Adequan injections – This is an injection in your dog’s muscle. Initially, your dog will have a shot twice a week for a month. Then the injections will be given once a month. Adequan blocks the enzymes that cause inflammation and injure joint cartiledge. It is an effective treatment. Adequan injections stimulate more joint fluid in the joints and Adequan works pretty quickly.
- Wild Alaskan Fish Oil – rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6, this is a liquid that you add to your Bichon’s food. In addition to helping her joints, it will also strengthen your dog’s immune system and make her skin and coat healthier!
Surgery for Canine Arthritis
Surgery is not for every dog. Your vet will decide whether this is a good option for your Bichon Frise. His decision will depend on your dog’s general health and her age.
If your dog has surgery, she may have one or more of these procedures:
- Hip or joint replacement – just like a person, your dog may have just worn out one or more of his joints. If your dog had an injury, even as long ago as when a puppy, he is more prone to arthritis later in that joint.
- Arthroscopic surgery – to remove little chips of damaged bone
- Joint fusion – if a joint is badly damaged, the vet may actually fuse the joints together. If this surgery is done, your dog will have to compensate or move differently because he will lose his normal range of motion or ability to move naturally.
- Amputation – only in extreme cases. This is not normally done for arthritis.
Weight Control for Arthritis
Since being overweight is a major factor in getting arthritis, it makes sense that you should work to keep your dog’s weight under control.
- Light exercise helps keep muscles intact and helps keep your dog’s weight down
- A diet that is designed for Bichons and nutritionally balanced. Dogs are carnivores, and their dog food should reflect this. Make sure you are feeding your dog the right amount, not even a little more than specified. Extensive testing is done to determine the correct amount for a dog’s health. Don’t second guess the scientists.
- Dog treats – Of course you want to give your dog treats. I’m not suggesting that you deprive your dog of fun treats. Just make sure that you aren’t feeding him too many or treats that contribute to weight gain. Cut down on carbohydrates, as they contribute to inflammation in the joints.
Exercising Your Arthritic Bichon Frise
Normally Bichons love to run and play. But, if your Bichon Frise has arthritis, he won’t be nearly as active and might even become a couch potato because of the pain and weakness of arthritis.
You’ll need to get him moving again. But it is important to do this carefully. Too much exercise can actually hurt your dog’s joints or make the joint damage worse.
You will find that, just like people, dogs will move better and with less pain, after warming up or having some exercise. It’s actually a way to decrease your dog’s pain.
So how do you maintain a balance for your dog?
- Short walks – Your dog still needs to take walks for gentle exercise. Not hikes up steep mountains, but short walks on fairly level paths.
- How often? – Take 20 minute walks with your pet, at least 3 times a week. Dogs, like people, are not intended to be weekend warriors. If you only exercise your dog occasionally, she is far more likely to get injured, both in muscles and joints.
- Play with your Bichon – It’s still OK to exercise your Bichon by playing games in the yard or on the carpet in the living room. Keep her moving to loosen up those joints.
- Exercise in water – If you live near water or have a pool, aquatic exercise is great for sore joints. When your swim or exercise in water, you eliminate the usual pounding stress to joints. Water therapy is very helpful for arthritic joints. It also improves your dog’s cardiovascular health, strengthens his muscles and improves his range of motion.
- Massage – While not actually exercise, massaging your dog helps improve blood circulation and it also relaxes your dog. Arthritic dogs can become anxious, as they don’t understand why they are now in pain. Massage is also a nice way to spend time together.
- Grooming – You probably brush your Bichon Frise often already. Brushing helps with blood circulation to muscles and joints.
Make Your Dog’s Space Comfortable
There are a number of things that you can do to make your arthritic Bichon Frise more comfortable. Luckily, most of these are really simple and easy to do…
- Warm and dry – People with arthritis have worse symptoms when the weather is cold and damp. Dogs do too. So, something as simple as a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel can help keep your dog’s old bones warm. Even easier, consider getting a self-warming pet mat. There are also a number of electric warming mats for dogs, but I do not recommend them because the cords can pose a hazard, especially if your dog or cat is a chewer.
- Orthopedic dog bed – Since your dog spends many hours each day in her bed, make sure she has plenty of support for those sore joints. Your dog’s bed should also be easy to step into, as arthritis makes it hard to climb onto a raised bed. I’d keep the height below 6”, so your dog doesn’t have to struggle to get onto the bed. A pillow or raised edge is nice for supporting your dog’s head, as well. Place several beds around your house, so your dog can be comfortable, but still be near the family.
- Food and water dishes – When your dog leans down to eat or drink, there is stress on her neck if she has arthritis in that area. Raising her food and water bowls eliminates that stress. Also, if you place a non-skid mat under the food area, that will keep the bowls from moving, another source of stress.
- Ramps – If your dog is arthritic, she will have trouble jumping up onto a bed or sofa and getting into your car. Stay away from stairs, as she’ll also have trouble climbing stairs. To help your dog get into the car or onto the bed or sofa, you can use a ramp. When you purchase a ramp, look for one that has a non-skid surface. I also like a lip on each side, but that is not absolutely essential. A ramp for the car could be collapsible, so you can easily take it with you in the car. Or, you may just need a shorter length ramp.
While arthritis is an unfortunate diagnosis for many dogs, you can still make your Bichon Frise comfortable and spend fun times together.