Arthritis is a problem for a lot of dogs. In particular, large dogs and senior dogs are the most likely to suffer from the pain arthritis causes. While there is no way to cure arthritis in dogs you can manage the symptoms and keep your dog active. Learning how to help dogs with arthritis is easy enough. It just takes some knowledge of the disorder and what resources you have at your disposal.
What is Arthritis in Dogs?
The most common type of arthritis dogs suffer from is called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis affects multiple joints all over the body. This may cause constant pain. It’s also a degenerative disease that will continue to impede mobility in your dog. However, you can slow the degeneration, as we’ll talk about later, with some strategies.
Other diseases cause dogs pain. Inflammatory conditions, fungal infections, bacterial infections, old injuries, and obesity are just some of the other medical issues that resemble arthritis.
What Causes Arthritis in Dogs?
In healthy dogs, there is a film of cartilage on the joint that acts as a natural lubricant. As that cartilage wears down over time or suffers from damage, the friction from bone on bone causes pain for your dog. As the body tries to protect itself, it creates more bone growth that limits mobility. The bone growth may even lead to bone spurs.
In most cases, arthritis in dogs is a natural progression of the aging process. Like humans, dogs have arthritis for similar reasons. The first symptom may be your dog limping as they move. After some time, it might progress to problems getting up from lying down, slow gait, and lack of energy.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
Even though you want to learn how to help dogs with arthritis, the early signs are not easy to detect. It’s not until the pain and lack of joint mobility is impacting their daily activities that it becomes truly apparent. Here are the most common symptoms of canine arthritis:
● Lameness in leg(s)
● Hard time getting up from lying down
● Unable to exercise
● No interest in jumping or running
● Hard time climbing stairs
● Lack of appetite
● Accidents in the house
● Behavioral changes
● Weight gain from lack of movement
Treatment of Arthritis in Dogs
If you think your dog has osteoarthritis, you need to bring them to see the veterinarian. At the vet, they will do an exam that includes assessing the range of motion in joints. An X-ray may also be suggested to make sure there isn’t a possibility of it being another disorder. X-rays help the vet understand the extent of the joint damage.
Your vet may suggest giving your dog supplements to help with joint health. These supplements are prescribed to reduce inflammation, slow joint damage, and improve overall function. The two most common joint supplements used for dogs are glucosamine and chondroitin. Humans take these supplements for the same reasons.
NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are pain control medications. They are often used to treat dogs with excessive pain. Unfortunately, there are some adverse side effects with long-term use, such as impaired kidney or liver function. For dogs on NSAID therapy, your vet will likely suggest regular blood tests to monitor your dog’s organ function.
Weight management is the next most common type of treatment for dogs with arthritis. Of course, this is only useful for dogs who are overweight. Dogs with arthritis that carry extra weight increase the rate of damage to the joints. Talk to your vet about reducing your dog’s weight with diet and exercise.
Lastly, there are alternative treatments for dogs with arthritis, including acupuncture, physiotherapy, dietary changes, and cold laser treatment. In the most severe cases, your vet may recommend surgery to take out the damaged parts of the joint or replace the joint.
Tips on How to Help Dogs with Arthritis
Here are some tips on how to help dogs with arthritis:
- Keep your dog on a healthy diet and exercise often.
- Take your dog in for regular checkups with the vet to monitor the progression of arthritis.
- Keep your dog warm and dry. Damp conditions will only make the pain and inflammation worse.
- Use pain medication only as directed by your vet.
- Massage your dog. Compressing sore joints increases blood flow and healing in those areas.
- Use ramps or safely pick up your dog if they need to get onto high beds, into cars, etc.
- Regularly trim your dog’s nails to limit any added discomforts on their legs and paws.
- Keep your house warm enough for your dog. Cold conditions only increase the discomfort.
While arthritis is a painful condition, it can be managed. Keep your dog mobile and limit their pain by following the above tips.