Arthritis in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments
As with humans, arthritis in dogs ranges from uncomfortable at best to debilitating at its worst.
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, which is common among many breeds of dog. If your dog is suffering from arthritis, you will likely see a considerable change in their mood, eating habits, and ability to exercise.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis in dogs, but there are many things you can do to make your dog’s life more comfortable and enjoyable while easing the daily pain on their joints.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
There are a variety of ways arthritis can present itself in our dogs. While they might even try to hide it from us in the initial stages, it is essential to diagnose as early as possible to ease any pain your pet may be enduring.
- Stiffness – usually worse immediately after waking up
- Slowing down and lagging on walks
- Limping – usually worse after walks if arthritis is more prevalent in one leg
- Irritability and aggression
- Continual licking and biting at joints
Causes of Arthritis in Dogs
Arthritis is common among dogs and can occur for a variety of reasons.
Wear and Tear
The most common cause of arthritis in dogs is general wear and tear, which explains why arthritis is much more prevalent in older dogs.
Many dogs are either born with or develop problems with their immune system. In some situations, these issues can present themselves as arthritis.
As might be expected, when a dog carries too much weight, it can put a massive amount of stress on its joints. Over time, this can wear away the cartilage and result in arthritis.
Unfortunately, some dogs are more prone to developing arthritis than others. It is much more common among bigger breeds such as Labradors, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds.
Puppies are particularly prone to injuries due to the fearless nature of how they bound around the home and garden. These injuries can often lead to arthritis in later life.
Treatment for Dogs with Arthritis
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis in dogs. However, it is an illness that many dogs live a happy and fulfilling life with, and a few simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.
Controlling your dog’s weight is one of the most critical factors in managing their arthritis.
Any unnecessary weight your pet is carrying will be putting a great deal of stress on their joints. This will not only lead to more pain but accelerate the rate at which the disease develops.
Weight can be managed by providing a well-rounded, balanced diet and ensuring your pet gets regular exercise. Omega 3 fatty acids are integral to a balanced diet and great for dogs with arthritis due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Hip and Joint Supplements
While supplements will not cure arthritis in your dog, they will help ease the joints’ inflammation. Joint supplements can be taken alongside other medications that may be prescribed by your vet.
Making the home more comfortable will boost your dog’s ability to cope with their arthritis. Simple changes include providing a joint-friendly dog bed and lifting their food bowl to make mealtimes much less stressful. You could also add rugs to slippery flooring to make it easier for your dog to navigate the home.
There is a range of medications available for dogs with arthritis. Although vets may want to see that lifestyle changes have first been attempted, there are options including NSAID’s (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), which should help reduce the swelling and pain around the joints.
Where the joint damage is severe, and the vet feels there are no other options, they may think surgery is the best choice.
There are various surgeries available, and while it may seem like an extreme option, it can drastically increase the quality of life for your pet in the long term.
Tips for Exercising Dogs with Arthritis
As with arthritic humans, dogs are often stiff when they first wake or stand after resting. Ensure your dog gets some time to move at their own pace around the home and the garden so they can warm up their joints before popping on the lead.
Each dog will vary on the amount of exercise they can not only endure but enjoy. Although regular walks are crucial for weight management and your dog’s overall health, it is also a time for them to have fun. When walks stop being fun, you must reconsider.
It is wise to walk your arthritic dog on a lead rather than letting them run around with other dogs. Adrenaline can mask pain, and therefore the aftereffects of their antics might not be evident until you arrive home.
Pay Attention to the Weather
Extreme heat or cold can aggravate arthritis pain, as it does in humans. It will likely be best to avoid walks or ensure they are kept short and sweet in the height of summer or depths of winter.
Consider the Terrain
Uneven surfaces such as gravel will wreak havoc on your dog’s joint pain. Stick to tarmac sidewalks wherever possible, which will provide a stable and comfortable base for your dog.
Hydrotherapy and swimming are a great way to exercise dogs whose joints may not allow them long walks. It is a wonderful option for dogs that need to lose weight but can no longer bound around as they did in their formative years — providing the chance for them to burn calories without the added pressure to their joints.
Be Patient and Realistic
Due to the nature of arthritis, your dog will likely have good and bad days.
What they could not do yesterday, they might be able to do today. The pain and discomfort will move in ebbs and flows, so be patient and accept your dog’s ability each day. Remember, they cannot communicate with us easily, so try to remain empathetic at all times.