As dog owners, we like to think that our pets will remain forever young, energetic and loving. Unfortunately, this can’t always be the case. In fact, dogs are susceptible to a number of different conditions and diseases. An increasingly prominent condition facing dogs as they age is that of arthritis.
Characterised by stiff limbs or periods of inactivity, arthritis can cause your beloved pooch to experience severe pain. While arthritis can’t be completely cured, there are a number of approaches that owners can take to minimise the associated aches and pains. Which will in turn help your furry friend enjoy a better quality of life.
Defining arthritis in dogs
Old age arthritis or osteoarthritis is common in humans and dogs. In dogs, it’s a result of the ongoing wear and tear of day to day life, as well as instability in the joints. For four legged friends, arthritis can affect one or more joints located anywhere in the body.
This painful condition occurs when the cartilage protecting the bones of the joint is destroyed. The joint then loses its protective cushion, causing friction between bones. Cartilage inflammation can also stimulate growth, known as spurs, to form around the joints.
The joints in a dog depend on a layer of protective cartilage to provide a smooth surface for adjoining bones to move freely over each other. This movement is greatly assisted by the lubrication provided by the synovial fluid in joints.
Seeing as cartilage has no nerve supply, damage can occur and later spread, undetected. Symptoms will only surface when the joint is severely damaged to such a point that the lubricating fluid has lost the ability to protect the bone.
Symptoms of arthritis in dogs
It’s important to note that any joint in a dog’s body can be affected by arthritis. Common sites include the hips, elbows, lower back, knees and even wrists. Seeing as this condition can affect your doggo all over, it’s important to look for tell tale arthritis symptoms.
These symptoms include:
- Reluctance to walk or climb stairs
- Avoidance of play time or jumping for toys and balls
- Periods of limping and lameness
- Licking of the affected joints
- Appetite loss or unusual weight gain
- Sleeping more
- Yelping when patted on a particular joint
- Pain or stiffness when getting up or down
- A change in personality from happy go lucky to agitated
- Urinating inside the home
Factors contributing to arthritis
Arthritis is often misconstrued as a condition that only affects older dogs. However, there are a variety of factors that can contribute to your dog developing this painful condition at any stage of their life.
Contributing factors include:
- Congenital joint disorders such as hip dysplasia
- Repeated trauma to joints
- Metabolic diseases like diabetes
- Genetic makeup
- Immune disease
- Old, undiagnosed injuries
- High activity levels where increased stress is placed on joints
Preventing arthritis in dogs
Such a fate does not have to be inevitable. In fact, prevention can start in puppyhood. If you’re interested in a purebred puppy, make sure that X-rays have been taken- specifically of the hip and elbow region- as this will prevent dogs with poor joint formation from breeding.
When you bring your puppy home, make sure to provide a healthy lifestyle for them. This involves providing a balanced diet with added calcium and omega 3. It’s also important not to over exercise your puppy. You don’t want to put too much stress on their developing joints. An indestructible dog frisbee is a good way for your dog to exercise.
A comfortable sleeping space, it’s worth noting, can go a long way towards preventing arthritis in your dog. A proper dog bed will help to relieve any unnecessary pressure on joints. It will also support proper sleeping positions.
Managing arthritis naturally
When it comes to finding ways to relieve the symptoms of arthritis in your dogs, in most cases, it’s best to consult with a vet. As each dog is different, a trained professional will be able to help you formulate a plan that will best benefit your dog.
For those interested in trying to manage the pain associated with arthritis in natural ways, there are plenty of options available. From weight control to over the counter treatments, owners will be able to find an avenue that provides their pooch with some relief.
Option 1: Weight control
Excess weight puts undue stress on joints. This kind of stress can cause further joint damage or make the associated pain more severe. To help prevent arthritis and manage the pain, maintaining a healthy weight is key.
Option 2: Diet
A balanced and wholesome diet will go a long way towards helping reduce the joint inflammation caused by arthritis flare ups. With the right mix of dietary fatty acids, inflammation is reduced, limiting cartilage damage and decreasing aches and pains.
Option 3: Exercise
While some dogs who suffer from arthritis will want to remain inactive, light to moderate exercise will work to keep stiff joints supple and mobile. While the exact exercise regime will depend on the individual dog and their symptoms, a light walk or swim can work wonders.
Option 4: Massages
A simple massage can really help your dog. Gently massaging the area of most concern to your dog can improve circulation, increasing both mobility and flexibility. Be careful not to apply too much pressure as this can do more harm than good.
Option 5: Over the counter supplements
Natural over the counter remedies have been shown to ease multiple symptoms of arthritis. These supplements can take the form of pills or food. Just make sure they contain glucosamine or fatty acids.
Medical interventions for arthritis
If your dog is suffering from arthritis, it may be time to think about medical based treatments. It’s worth noting that these treatments can add up. In fact, in some cases, the average per treatment price for treating a dog’s arthritis is $2,021.
Option 1: Anti-inflammatory drugs
An anti-inflammatory drug such as aspiral can decrease both inflammation and pain. This results in increased mobility and a better quality of life. An anti-inflammatory drug will work to help the body repair cartilage.
Option 2: Steroid injections
Steroids or cortisone can be given as either an injection or series of tablets. As these types of drugs have a higher anti-inflammation effect, your dog will experience relief quicker and for longer periods of time.
Option 3: Surgery
When it comes to managing arthritis, surgery is often regarded as a last resort option. If the joints are too severely damaged, or the pain is simply too intense, a vet may recommend surgery in order to improve your dog’s quality of life.
Taking care of your beloved pooch
No dog owner wants to see their dog unable to jump for tennis balls, walk up the stairs or keep pace on a family walk. While the signs of aging in dogs may be heartbreaking, they don’t have to spell the end of a life well lived. Instead, owners just need to implement a few arthritis management tools.
By providing pets with a complete diet and suitable exercise regime, along with comfortable places to sleep, joint massages and plenty of pats, arthritis pain can be managed. In fact, when the pain associated with arthritis is effectively managed, dogs can still go on to live a very full and loving life.