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December 12

Dog Health Part 3: Arthritis [2021 UPDATE]

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INTRODUCTION


Running, jumping and playing are the second nature of our dogs. And their ‘happy-go-lucky’ nature is what makes them even more adorable.

But as our pets age, things change. Effortless running changes to difficult walks, playful jumps become an unusual affair and easy sitting is accompanied by a deep groan.


If you are wondering why your dog is not behaving his usual self, you must know that all these are the symptoms of underlying joint related problems.

Arthritis or osteoarthritis, like humans, is common in canines too.

An age-related degenerative disorder, arthritis in dogs is a complex condition that involves inflammation and pain in one or more joints.


While dog arthritis can affect dogs of any age, the condition is mostly seen in older dogs or dogs of large breeds like German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers.

Although there is no permanent cure of this progressive disorder, timely diagnosis and appropriate management of the disease can make his day-to-day activities less painful and more enjoyable.

Let us see what dog arthritis actually is and how can you help your dog live pain-free.


What is Dog Arthritis?

In healthy joints, cartilage acts as a cushion. It helps in the smooth movement of joints and ensures full range of motion.

But with progressing age and other factors like injury, accident and repeated stress, this cartilage cushion begins to break down.

This leads to pain, inflammation of joints, and decreased range of motion – a condition known as arthritis or osteoarthritis.

While the disease can affect any part of the body, it is most commonly seen in limbs and lower spine.


What Causes Arthritis in Dogs?

While there could be many reasons due to which a dog develops arthritis, the most common is age.

As the dog becomes old, the cartilage surface of their joints begins to thin and the cartilage cells begin to die.

This causes release of enzymes that lead to excessive release of joint fluid and inflammation in joints.

Also, severe cartilage thinning, deceases the normal space between the joints, leading to increased friction between the joints and joint spurs.


Other reasons that could lead to dog arthritis include:


Body confirmation


Large dogs or giant breeds like German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers are more prone to osteoarthritis.


Body condition


Obesity or excessive weight can lead to arthritis.

Repetitive stress


Regular athletic activities like fly ball, jumping and dock diving can cause arthritis.

Injuries


Fractures, ligament tears or damage and bone damage are also the leading cause of dog arthritis.

Infections


bone or joint infection could also lead to osteoarthritis in dogs.

Improper nutrition


Irregular or poor diet leads to nutrition deficiencies in dogs, resulting in bone or cartilage damage.

Genetics

Sometimes, arthritis has a genetic history too. 


Signs and Symptoms of Dog Arthritis

Apart from difficulty in getting up and down, there are various other symptoms that can help you detect that your dog is suffering from arthritis.

While not all dogs necessarily demonstrate the same symptoms all the time, the most common signs of dog arthritis include:

· Stiffness or swelling in joints
· Sore joints
· Difficulty in walking or getting up and down
· Lameness in one or more legs
· Lethargy
· Reluctance to climb up and down the stairs
· Reluctance to jump or play
· Weight gain
· Pain when touched on knees, hips or other parts of the body
· Loss of stamina
· Change of posture
· Difficulty in lifting legs
· Loss of mass in and around limbs and spine
· Aggressiveness towards other dogs or humans


Detecting Arthritis in Dogs

If you think that you dog is old or exhibiting any of the above mentioned symptoms, there are strong chances that he might be suffering from osteoarthritis.

It is important to get your dog thoroughly evaluated by a veterinarian, who will physically examine your dog to access his range of motion and movement of joints.

He may also recommend some tests, including X-rays and blood tests, to analyze the exact condition of the affected joints and rule out other diseases with similar symptoms.


Treatment of Dog Arthritis

While there is no permanent cure or magic bullet to treat osteoarthritis, there’s lot that can be done to prevent or slow down the progression of disease.

You doctor can also help you control the pain and manage the condition for your dog to improve his quality of life.


The treatment of osteoarthritis is multimodal in nature. In it several different therapies are used simultaneously to reduce dog knee arthritis pain, prevent inflammation, and achieve the best outcome.


Your veterinarian will usually prescribe:


Joint Supplements

Today, there are various supplements available that promise to reduce joint inflammation, improve function, and slow down the progression of disease. 

Glucosamine and chondroitin are two most common joint supplements used for treating arthritis in dogs. These supplements promote joint healing and increase water retention in the cartilage to provide cushioning for the joint.

Some glucosamine dog joint supplements include Zesty Paws Glucosamine, Active Chews Hip and Joint Dog Treats, ProSense Glucosamine Joint Care and more.


Green-lipped mussel (GLM) is another nutritional oral supplements prescribed for dog arthritis.

It contains glycosaminoglycans, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids like eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and antioxidants.

It is highly effective in reducing joint inflammation and increasing cartilage elasticity and mobility.

 

Glyde Mobility Chews are dog arthritis chews that are often used as an early intervention to arthritis prevention and progression. They are made of all-natural ingredients and are even safe for long-term use in dogs.


NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are mostly used for relieving knee and hip arthritis in dogs as NSAIDs help to control joint inflammation.

NSAIDs like Carprofen, Galliprant, and Meloxicam are the safest options available. They help in better controlling pain and inflammation as compared to their over-the-counter products.

However, while these NSAIDs are effective in relieving arthritis pain in dogs, your dog might suffer from potential side effects.

For these, preferably check with your vet first before administering!


Continuous use of NSAIDs however, can also usually bring in some significant side effects.

These include indigestion, vomiting, decreased to no appetite, reduced activity levels and more.

So, before going ahead with the NSAID therapy and treatment for your dog, discuss with your veterinarian its probable risks and side effects on your pet. 

Also, do let the doctor know about any previous liver or kidney ailment that your dog might be suffering from.


Adequan Injections

Adequan (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan) are the only FDA-approved series of injections that have proved to be beneficial in reducing joint inflammation and decreasing pain by increasing joint lubrication.

Rather than just reducing the signs of canine arthritis, Adequan help in treating the disease by inhibiting cartilage loss.

However, these injections should be used with caution in dogs that are suffering from renal or hepatic impairments. 

Typically, adequan injections require a vet to administer as well.


Surgery

In severe cases of osteoarthritis, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove non-functional or damaged tissue from the joint or recommend an entire joint replacement.


Additional Treatments or Therapies

Apart from medicinal therapies, your veterinarian may also recommend other treatments to help relieve joint and hip pain in your dog.

These include physiotherapy, exercise, acupuncture, laser therapies, diet modifications and weight management.


Weight Management

In dogs suffering from arthritis, excessive weight can not only damage the already degrading joints but also make the condition even more painful.

This is coupled with speeding up the process of cartilage breakdown. So, if your dog is overweight, seek expert guidance and advice to help your dog shed of his excess weight.

This can be done through proper nutritional diet and an effective exercise plan.


Alternatively, you could consult your vet and also make your own dog food.

In some areas, it can actually be cheaper than to purchase dog food for its arthritis.

In a lot of cases, making your own dog food can also help ease the pain in your dog’s joints!


Exercise

Ensure mobility of your dog through a moderate yet regular exercise regime. Light physical activity is very important for your dog, irrespective of his age and the severity of the disease.

Your doctor can design an appropriate exercise program for your dog, keeping his age, body weight and arthritis condition in mind. Ideally, a 15-minute walk is a good go-to plant o start with.

You can also try various non-weight–bearing exercises like swimming.

It is an excellent form of exercise that will help increase your dog’s range of motion and help him build up some muscle mass too.


Body Massage

Many arthritic dogs find muscle massages quite helpful. It helps in stimulating the blood flow in muscles and help in relieving pain associated with the disease.

You can also perform warm compresses over sore joints to lessen the pain. However, always take care not to cause injury due to excessive heat.


Acupuncture

A complementary therapy, acupuncture too helps in making the life of arthritic dogs comfortable.

It also ensures better mobility by reducing pains and aches. You can also try the formulations of Chinese herbs to enhance the benefits of acupuncture.


Laser Treatment

A relatively newer form of treatment, class IV therapeutic laser stimulates blood flow to tissues to improve mobility and enhance the quality of life in arthritic dogs.


How to Make Your Arthritis Dog’s Life Comfortable?

Apart from medicinal and therapeutic measures, there are a lot of things that you can do at home and in and around your house to make your dog’s life comfortable.

To help your dog:


Buy an orthopedic bed

Bring home a dog arthritis bed to help him easily meet his newly developed needs.

Well-padded with memory support form, dog arthritis beds are especially made for ultimate canine comfort and helps in relieving joint pains.

Also, place your dog’s bed away from cold or damp drafts. It will also prevent the formation of pressure-point calluses.


Carpeted your tiles

Consider installing non-ceramic tiles or carpeted tiles that are designed for pet incontinence.

Invest in non-slip rugs and runners to support your dog’s movement and ensure minimum friction and joint pressure while walking.


Modify your steps and staircase

Pad your steps or make a ramp to help your dog easily climb up and down.

Your dog will definitely find a sloped ramp easy to manage than steps.


Raise their water and food bowls

Arthritic dogs find it difficult to lower their neck to eat or drink.

Placing their food bowls on an elevated platform is an intelligent idea to help them easily reach out to their food or drinks.


Maintain an ideal temperature

Colder floors or cold temperatures generally bring in a lot of discomfort for arthritis dogs.

Therefore, when the temperatures drop outside, ensure to maintain a comforting temperature inside the house.

Your dog will thank you for this!


Reduce Stress

Stress brings in a lot of pain and discomfort, especially in older dogs suffering from arthritis.

So, make sure you ailing dog is not exposed to a lot of stress, especially loud music or high-pitched sounds, in and around the house.


Create a play space

Create an efficient play corner for your pet – one that’s easily accessible and can keep him comfortable.

Improve his quality of life

Bring home a dog arthritis brace to support your dog’s arthritic limb.

It provides additional support to your dog’s arthritic limbs, aids in their mobility and speeds up their recovery time.

Dog arthritis braces also reduce the chance of injury/ re-injury to the affected area.

However, while investing in a dog arthritis brace, take proper measurements to ensure a proper fit.

You want the brace to be supportive and not cut off his blood circulation.


Conclusion

Osteoarthritis is a painful condition, but with proper medication and care it can be effectively managed.

However, the most important part in arthritis is its timely detection and prevention.

So monitor your dog’s health on daily basis and make sure that his mobility is seamless and without any pain. 

Protect him from falls, injuries and accidents. Ensure proper nutrition and joint supplementation, but only after doctor’s recommendation.

You should always avoid over the counter drugs and supplements for your dog, as they sometimes can do more harm than good. So always seek an expert’s advice.


However, if unfortunately, your dog still suffers from arthritis, take all necessary measures to ensure that his mobility is pain free.

 From proper medical care to supplemental therapies and from equipping your house with arthritis friendly materials to proofing it to ensure minimum injury, do everything to make your dog’s life comfortable and happy.


about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.


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