Is your best friend having problems getting his legs moving first thing in the morning or after a nap? Is it getting harder and harder for him to jump on the couch, his favorite chair, or your bed? Is she having problems getting into the car? Does she hesitate before going up the steps?


Arthritis may be the culprit. Unfortunately, like humans, dogs can get arthritis, too. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint, and can occur in a dog's hips, spine, or any other joint. Though commonly thought of as an older dogs' disease, dogs of any age can suffer from it. A common affliction in German Shepherds and Retrievers (especially Goldens and Labradors), it can affect any breed of dog.


There are several forms of arthritis that afflict dogs. This article focuses on osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis, since if an older dogs suffers from arthritis, this is most likely the cause. As the name "degenerative" implies, osteoarthritis is caused by erosion of cartilage over years of wear and tear. All joints have a thin layer of cartilage over the end of the bone where it meets the other bone in the joint. As this cartilage gets worn away, the bones rub together causing pain.


There is no cure for osteoarthritis. However, once a visit to the vet has diagnosed your dog with this condition, there are things you can do to help your friend fell better.


The first, and most important thing you can do, is to get your dog back to a healthy weight if he is overweight. The more weight he's carrying, the harder it is on his joints -- especially if he's carrying more weight that is optimal for his breed, build and age.


Gentle exercise is another good treatment. Even if your dog's weight is optimal, walking or gently jogging with her on a leash will help ease her pain. Swimming is another good low-impact activity that will help ease your dog's discomfort.


You can also make your dog's environment more comfortable. Putting rugs down on slick floor will help him get traction to stand up more easily. Using dog steps can help her get up on furniture, your bed, or in the car. A dog ramp can also be used instead of steps, or over existing steps if they are too high for her to navigate comfortably. If she sleeps on the floor, make sure she has a soft, comfortable bed. If you dog is outdoors, make sure she has a warm, dry place to sleep -- cold, wet conditions will aggravate her pain.


Medications can also be used. Your vet may prescribe NASIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications). Aspirin falls in this category, and may be given your dog. Aspirin can cause ulcers and stomach bleeding in dogs, so be careful of the dosage. Giving the aspirin with food and/or using buffered aspirin may diminish stomach upset.


There are also some other non-NASID prescription drugs that your vet may prescribe in lieu of or in addition to a NASID pain-killer. Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements may also be given to help joint mobility.


Massage and acupuncture may also help ease the pain. There are also some surgical remedies that you may want to discuss with your vet, especially if the pain is severe or if your dog is still relatively young.


As with people, dogs often get the aches, pains and stiff joints that come from arthritis. However, as is also the case with people, there are ways to help ease these discomforts. Your dog give you his undying love and devotion: return some of that love by making him more comfortable. You'll both feel better for it.