Your dog’s mobility is important and should be monitored, particularly as they age. If you look for the signs of arthritis and get your vet’s opinion, there are things that can keep your dog comfortable and able to enjoy life to the full. Not all kinds of arthritis affects the bones, but in this case we are focussing on Osteoarthritis which is to do with joints. In dogs with arthritis, cartilage within a joint (hip, elbow etc.) changes or becomes damaged, making it less smooth and causing the bones in the joint to rub together. As a direct result of this increased friction, new bone forms around the joint, making it stiffer and more difficult to move.
Damage caused by arthritis is permanent, but it can be managed help give your dog a good quality of life. As this condition has a gradual onset, people sometimes don’t think about having it checked out and to look for ways to help. Lifestyle, diet, medication and supplements all play a part in the treatment and improvement of arthritis.
Often see in older dogs
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints and it commonly affects older dogs where the joints have become worn over time. Inflammation in a joint makes movement difficult and painful. If your dog is affected, you could see a lessening interest in going for walks and playing. If you hear the term Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease, these are terms for the progressive deterioration of the joints as a result of the inflammation and this is seen in older dogs. Arthritis is very common in older dogs as joint function deteriorates with age. If a younger dog develops arthritis, this is likely to be because of on injury or being overweight.
You could notice your older dog slowing down on walks, struggling with stairs or jumping on furniture they may have a problem with arthritis. Other symptoms are pain or swelling in the joints, lameness or licking joints. You could also see difficulty moving after exercise or first thing in the morning. Any joint in your dog’s body can be affected by arthritis, but usually, it develops in hips, elbows, knees and lower back. Dogs suffering from arthritis may become tired and irritable and also start to loose muscle definition.
Weight is such an important issue in a dogs health and a difficult one. Older dogs and neutered dogs will be more susceptible to weight gain and if arthritis starts to affect them, they will be less active and gain more weight. Again its gradual and people don’t sometimes notice. Your vet will weigh your dog annually at vaccination time and they will advise you about diet. Its hard, but cutting down or changing the diet is so important to get your dogs weight down. Obesity definitely is a factor in your dog suffering with arthritis. If your dog is suffering from joint pain, you must recognise this fast and take action, which may include a change to the diet.
Once your dog reaches a certain age (dog food manufacturers say senior), you should choose the appropriate diet as it is likely to be lower in calories for less active dogs. If your dog has weight to loose and you are struggling with simply reducing the quantities, there are some ‘weight reduction’ diets that you could look into. Its advisable to discuss weight control with your vet, but it is vitally important that your dog does not get overweight as it is easier to put it on than loose it!
Walking on the flat and low impact exercise/short walks are probably better if your dog suffers from arthritis, but you really must judge each dog individually. Swimming can also be a great low-impact exercise if your dog enjoys it. Massages, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy may also help.
Some breeds will be more susceptible to arthritis because of joint damage such as hip dysplasia, cruciate damage and patellar luxation (seen in toy breeds) and some dogs just have an increased chance of developing degenerative arthritis. Working dogs and highly athletic dogs also have a high risk of developing the condition.
If you and your vet make a plan to treat your dogs arthritis, this is going to slow down the condition but will not stop it from progressing completely. This may include changes in the home, such as comfy padded low beds away from cold and drafts and non skid flooring where ever possible. Limited but regular exercise is recommended, but you have to judge this with each dog, by noticing how they react. Help will be needed with getting in and out of the car and on to the sofa or bed.
Your vet will diagnose arthritis with a physical examination and also by discussing history and symptoms with you. For a true diagnosis, in any age of dog, an X-Ray will be requested. Your vet may prescribe non steroid anti inflammatories which help relieve inflammation and pain to help improve mobility. Cartilage Protectors could be used to reduce cartilage degeneration, as well as promote repair of joint structures and reduce painful inflammation. These medications can come in the form of daily tablets or liquids that are given with food, or an injection which is given monthly by your vet. Some vets may also discuss joint supplements or special diets that may be beneficial for your dog. There are lots of over the counter supplements available, which could include Glucosamine, certain vitamins, Hyaluronic Acid, Green Lipped Mussel and Boswellia, but speak to your vet about this, you could be surprised how much they help. Joint supplements may be used alongside medication from your vet.
Because symptoms of arthritis differ between patients, many dogs cope well, leading full and active lives without any veterinary intervention at all. However, certain dogs will require treatment ranging from simple lifestyle changes to medication.
We hope that you are now more focuses on understanding arthritis, what to look for and how to help your dog enjoy life to the full.