Arthritis In Dogs – What You Need To Know
As our dogs age, they become more susceptible to arthritis, one of the most common causes of chronic pain in our canine companions. As with humans, arthritis can be debilitating, greatly affecting your dog’s quality of life. There is no permanent cure for canine arthritis, but it is possible to give your beloved dog arthritis pain relief.
Canine arthritis can cause a great deal of suffering and pain to a dog’s knees, elbows, hips, back, and joints, affecting his mobility and mood. He may no longer be able to sit or stand as he previously did, and it may be difficult for him to enjoy even the most basic activities, like walks and trips to the dog park. He may no longer be able to jump onto the bed or into the car. You might also notice that he seems lethargic and depressed.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
The best way to help your dog is to pay close attention to how he moves, keeping an eye out for the symptoms associated with canine arthritis. When you notice these symptoms or conditions, it’s time to take action. Common symptoms of arthritis include:
Your dog is limping or favoring one or more limbs for an extended period of time.
He might no longer be interested in his normal activities, like running, playing, jumping, climbing stairs, and going for rides in the car.
In the morning, your dog wakes up stiff, but gradually improves during the day.
He is reluctant to stand up and often takes a long time to rise from a seated or lying down position.
Sitting or standing might become difficult, and when your dog does stand, you notice he’s carrying his back half lower to the ground.
On walks, your pet moves more slowly, often lagging behind you.
As with any kind of chronic pain, the stress of managing joint discomfort can sap his strength, resulting in decreased alertness and increased sleeping.
His joints appear swollen and are tender to the touch.
He doesn’t like to be touched or petted and may yelp or show other signs of pain.
Some dogs with arthritis might have a smaller appetite, resulting in weight gain.
Keep in mind that although arthritis is probably the cause for your dog’s discomfort, there could be other reasons for the changes in his behavior. For example, Lyme disease can often cause joint pain. He could have degenerative joint problems, which present similarly to canine arthritis, but have a different underlying cause.
Hip dysplasia, common in larger dog breeds, is caused by abnormal joint structure and weak musculature, ligaments and cartilage. A veterinary exam and diagnosis will tell you the reason for your dog’s pain.
Diagnosing Canine Arthritis
Because your dog’s pain and joint discomfort could be caused by so many different physiological problems, it’s important to take him to the veterinarian as soon as you notice symptoms. In addition to giving your dog a physical exam, performing tests, and taking X-rays, your vet will give you prescription medication, usually an anti-inflammatory or analgesic, that can provide relief for your dog.
There are several kinds of canine arthritis. Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease or hypertrophic arthritis, is the most common form, caused by weakened cartilage surrounding your dog’s bones, and wear, tear and stress on your dog’s joints. Infectious or septic arthritis is an infection that can cause joint damage and is usually caused by bacterial or fungal infections and tick-borne diseases. Often hereditary, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an immune-mediated disease and results in the dog’s body attacks its own joints, which weakens the dog’s immune system.
Treatments for Dog Arthritis Pain Relief
Although there is no cure for canine arthritis, your vet can help you find effective treatments, natural remedies, drugs, and supplements to manage the condition. These treatments reduce pain and inflammation, helping your dog enjoy a happier, healthier, more comfortable life.
Common prescription medications for treating arthritis include Deramaxx and Metacam, which can both be given every day; speak to your vet about the correct dosage. Unfortunately, prescription medications, although extremely effective, can cause serious side effects in some dogs.
Keep an eye out for vomiting, diarrhea, change in stool color, excessive drinking, and urination, decreased appetite, restlessness, and other changes in behavior. Before starting treatment with these medications, it’s best to try safe, natural supplements, moving on to prescription drugs only when you see the natural remedies aren’t effective enough for your dog.
Glucosamine, the most popular natural supplement for treating arthritis pain in dogs, helps the joints remain lubricated and flexible. Cosequin, which helps support cartilage production, is a glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate supplement that is also safe and effective.
Omega-3 fish oils provide the same kind of results. Another natural method for controlling arthritis inflammation is Flexcin, an analgesic that has no serious side effects or harmful ingredients. Similar to maximum strength formula aspirin or acetaminophen, Flexcin reduces swelling to provide relief from discomfort, including knee dislocation and kneecap pain. Other supplements include Synflex, Flexpet, and Pawmax. These products provide joint support with no side effects and have positive reviews from pet owners and veterinarians.
If medications and supplements aren’t giving your dog as much arthritis relief as he needs, you can try a few alternatives. Swimming is a wonderful way to strengthen muscles, ligaments, and cartilage, and provides a low-impact form of exercise in a warm, weightless pool of water. If you don’t live near a beach or pool, find a canine water therapy provider in your area.
Another alternative remedy is canine acupuncture, which works similarly to acupuncture on humans. Some people don’t believe acupuncture is real therapy, but the anecdotal evidence is powerful: After acupuncture, most dogs are visibly relieved and can experience drug-free release from pain.
The best form of treatment for a dog with arthritis is prevention. Keep your dog at a healthy weight and make sure he gets plenty of exercises. Feed him a healthy diet, and consider giving him glucosamine and Omega-3 fish oil as a supplement before you notice any symptoms of arthritis. Many dog breeds, such as dachshunds and Bassett hounds, are prone to back and neck injuries; preventing arthritis can also help prevent these problems and help your dog enjoy a happy, pain-free life.