Watching an arthritic dog try to get around can be heartbreaking. Stiff joints make it difficult for him to rise from a prone position, climb stairs, or get into a vehicle. Dogs cannot tell us when they hurt so dog owners must watch for signs. A dog with arthritis may be reluctant to walk or he may walk with a stiff or hobbling gait. The pain of getting around may cause him to become inactive, sleep more, and gain weight which can aggravate arthritis even more. He may also lick the aching joints.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. It usually occurs in older dogs but can be found in younger dogs too. Symptoms usually associated with it are stiffness, pain, and loss of flexibility.
Arthritis in dogs is most common over the age of 10 for most breeds. Large breeds tend to have a higher risk. There are signs that your dog is beginning the onset of arthritis. You will begin to notice your dogs with a slight limp and trouble getting up after lying down. We have found this is more pronounced in the early morning rise and a day after a long walk and a lot of exercises. This is the best time to start treating the symptoms and hopefully ease the pain in your dog.
Arthritis is a debilitating disease that can cause joint stiffness and pain. The word, arthritis, means ‘inflammation of the joint.’ There are two major types of arthritis,
- The most common is Osteoarthritis, also called Degenerative Joint Disease, where the cartilage cushion in the joints slowly breaks down, usually due to age and wear and tear until bone grinds painfully against bone.
- The other is Inflammatory Joint Disease and may be the result of infections causing fluids and white blood cells to collect in the joints and cause them to become inflamed.
Is My Dog at Risk for Arthritis?
Any dog can get arthritis but some dogs may be more prone than others.
- Large breed dogs
- Overweight dogs
- Dogs with hereditary joint problems such as dysplasia
- Dogs with a joint injury
- Dogs not on tick preventative and therefore at risk of tick-borne diseases
- Dogs not vaccinated against diseases that cause inflammation
Keeping an Arthritic Dog Comfortable
Aside from the treatments prescribed by a veterinarian, there are measures a dog owner can take at home to keep an arthritic dog more comfortable.
- Maintain proper weight
- Provide ramps to assist the dog up to the bed, vehicle, etc
- Soft, supportive bed in a warm area
- Sweater to warm stiff joints in cold weather
- Elevated food bowl
Treating and Solutions for Arthritis in Dogs:
Although arthritis gets progressively worse, many dogs respond well to treatment. There are a few measures that can slow the progression of arthritis and keep your dog more comfortable. It’s tough to see your pet in pain. But there are solutions that can help ease the pain and stiffness.
- Supplements: There are a few supplements on the market that have been shown to improve arthritic conditions. The main anti-inflammatory for dogs is fish oil or omega 3 oils. These omega 3 fatty acids are great for inflammation and help to lubricate the joints. Joint supplements, prescribed by your veterinarian, to reduce inflammation and plump up cartilage.
- Lose Weight: If your dog is overweight, losing a few pounds can do wonders for arthritis and their overall health. Try reducing their food consumption or reducing the number of treats they receive. Make sure they get daily exercise.
- Change Diets: Unfortunately, most dog foods found today are cheap, grain and byproduct pebbles, some would call dog food. We are firm believers that your pets should be on meat and vegetable diets, mainly meats. Dogs have been bred from and are originally from wolves. Wolves do not eat grains. They are mainly carnivorous creatures. Why would we now feed them grains? The answer is because it’s easy, cheap and convenient. Please do your own further research on this topic. I will challenge you to try feeding your pet an all meat and vegetable dog food or even better a raw meat diet. Try it for 30 days and see the results for yourself.
- Dog Aspirin and Pain Relief Drugs Prescribed by Your Vet: This is my least favorite option and would only use it if it was absolutely necessary. Dog Aspirin can be used for temporary pain relief. I would only use this short term and use the above options in conjunction. Once they begin to feel better, stop the aspirin immediately.
- Exercise: That is not stressful to the joints, such as swimming
- Surgery: Such as hip replacement, is sometimes an option
- Anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by your vet
As always, consult with your veterinarian before adding or removing anything from your pet’s diet. Your veterinarian knows your dog better than we do. Also, continue to do research on your own. Challenge anything that may not sit well with you. Don’t take everything you read or hear for its word.
Arthritis is most successfully treated early before extensive damage has occurred in the joints. At the first sign of arthritis, dogs should be under the care of a veterinarian. We wish you nothing but the best with your loving pet’s health! Let them live a happy, healthy and fulfilled life!