Canine arthritis is one of the most common conditions our canine companions experience: it affects 80 percent of dogs that are age 8 or older. The disease occurs when the soft tissues surrounding a dog’s bones begin to wear down, causing stiffness and discomfort. Fido’s health, happiness, mobility, and quality of life can be seriously impacted by arthritis joint pain! Although veterinary medicine has come a long way in recent years, unfortunately, there is still no cure for canine arthritis. However, there are ways to soothe your dog’s arthritis pain and help him live a long and happy life. Read on as a local Cherry Hill, NJ vet offers some tips on how to understand, manage, and reduce your dog’s arthritis pain.
Arthritis Pain in Dogs: What You Need to Know
Canine arthritis closely resembles its human counterpart, with osteoarthritis being the most common form in both species. This degenerative condition results from the gradual deterioration of the soft tissue and cartilage in Fido’s joints. It typically affects weight-bearing joints, like the hips, shoulders, wrists, and knees. As that tissue thins and loses its flexibility, it causes discomfort and swelling due to friction and inflammation. In some cases, bone spurs may form, worsening the symptoms.
Common Doggy Arthritis Symptoms
Fido may not always communicate if he is feeling uncomfortable, so it’s important to watch for warning signs. Typically, lameness is the first one you’ll see. You may notice your furry companion seems stiff and sore. He may also limp, especially when getting up. Though the limp may initially dissipate as your dog warms up, it will likely worsen over time.
Other indications to watch for include lethargy, decreased appetite, disinterest in play, and hesitancy about running, jumping, or using stairs. Your canine buddy may also lose interest in exploring new places and/or socializing with other dogs, and he may exhibit signs of irritability or depression. Inappropriate elimination habits are another warning sign, especially if your pet must navigate stairs to get outside.
How Do Dogs Get Arthritis?
The main culprit here is usually simple wear and tear. All that running and playing takes a toll on Fido’s bones and joints! However, diet also plays a large role. It’s worth noting that dogs that did not get proper nutrition as puppies are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. This is particularly common in larger breeds. Big dogs go through massive growth spurts, which puts a lot of strain on their bodies. Any issues during that crucial stage can cause problems in the future.
Genetics and fitness also both factor into a dog’s risk of developing arthritis. Certain breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, German Shepherds, Pugs, and Golden Retrievers, are more susceptible to the condition than others.
Improper exercise can also increase a pup’s chances of developing joint issues. Certain activities, like frequent jumping and standing, can put additional strain on dogs’ joints and worsen the condition. Pooches who have experienced previous injuries or have underlying health concerns, such as obesity, hip and elbow dysplasia, osteochondrosis, autoimmune disorders, or diabetes, are also at a higher risk. Ask your Cherry Hill, NJ veterinarian for more information.
When Does Arthritis Develop in Dogs?
Arthritis is most common in senior dogs. However, it can develop at any time in Fido’s life. In fact, one in five dogs shows signs of osteoarthritis by the age of one. Remember that dogs don’t all age at the same rate. Saint Bernards, for example, may be seniors at age seven, while Chihuahuas may not be considered seniors until they’re ten.
You may not notice rapid changes. Arthritis often begins gradually and worsens over time, but it does sometimes accelerate rapidly. Because cartilage does not contain nerves, Fido won’t feel any pain until that tissue loses its ability to protect his joints. Consequently, you may not notice anything wrong until your pup’s condition has become quite serious.
What Is the Treatment for Canine Arthritis?
Specific options will vary, depending on the stage and type of the condition. If you have noticed signs of arthritis in your dog, or are concerned about your pup’s potential risk, contact your veterinarian to schedule a thorough examination. Once a diagnosis is made, you can discuss potential treatments. These may involve medications like NSAIDs, steroids, and/or chondroprotectants, which can help protect cartilage. Physical therapy may also be helpful. Certain supplements, such as glucosamine, may also be beneficial.
Surgery may be an option for some pups, but your vet may recommend trying less invasive measures, such as massage and joint supplements, first. Don’t be afraid to explore different possibilities! Just don’t give your dog any medication that wasn’t recommended by your vet. That can be very dangerous!
Exercising A Dog With Arthritis
It’s also important to make sure your pup is getting the right type and amount of exercise. That can get tricky as the condition worsens. Joint pain can hinder dogs from engaging in their favorite activities, like running and playing. Don’t let your furry friend become sedentary! Too much inactivity can cause muscle loss and weight gain, both of which will only worsen the situation. When it comes to doggy workouts, every pooch has different needs, so ask your vet for personalized advice. That said, most of our canine companions need at least a daily walk to stay healthy. Swimming can also be a great option, assuming that it’s warm enough and that your four-legged friend actually enjoys it.
Speaking of weather, cold and damp conditions can aggravate arthritis. Just like people, dogs tend to get stiff and sore when it’s chilly. Limit your pet’s outdoor time when it’s really cold out, and make sure he has a comfy bed. If Fido has thin fur, he may benefit from wearing a jacket in frigid weather.
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting Arthritis?
While it’s impossible to completely ensure that your furry friend will never develop arthritis, taking proper care and preventative measures can help a lot. A healthy diet is essential. Keeping Fido at a healthy weight is also key. Excess weight can place added stress on your pup’s bones and joints. This concept is supported by multiple studies. One study, conducted by the University of Glasgow and Utrecht, found that weight loss resulted in both improved mobility and reduced lameness in dogs with arthritis.
Caring For An Arthritic Dog At Home
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to ease your canine buddy’s joint discomfort. Keep a watchful eye on your furry friend’s physique, and address any weight gain promptly. Don’t let Fido manipulate you into overfeeding him: extra weight will only exacerbate the issue. (You may need to steel yourself against that cute face.) In addition to a proper diet and suitable exercise, joint supplements can also aid in relieving arthritic pain. Proper paw care is also helpful.
Make sure your pooch has a quality orthopedic dog bed to look adorable in. You may also need to address slippery surfaces. For instance, putting carpet runners down can help your pet get better traction, which will reduce the risk of slips and falls. Ask your vet for specific advice.
Last but not least, it’s also important to keep up with Fido’s veterinary care, through regular visits to the Cherry Hill, NJ veterinarian.
Conclusion: Arthritis is not the most complex condition we see in dogs, but it can be extremely painful. Keep an eye out for signs of arthritis in your dog, and call your vet as soon as you notice any of them.
Have questions about your dog’s health or care? Contact your local Cherry Hill, NJ veterinary clinic today!