Arthritis in Dogs
Many canine senior citizens become stiff and sore in their joints as they age. However, there is much you can do to slow the development of arthritis and to manage the symptoms if they occur.
The cause of canine arthritis ranges from immune medicated diseases to viral infections. The word ‘arthritis’ originates from the Greek words ‘arthro’ and ‘itis’; translating to joint and inflammation, respectively. Basically, arthritis means joint inflammation.
Generally, people associate arthritis with the disease older dogs have with sore joint symptoms.
What Causes Arthritis?
Arthritis begins with the deterioration of joint cartilage between the ends of bones. Gradually, the cartilage decays down to expose the bones. As arthritis advances, the cartilage continues to break down and is replaced by new bone, thinning the joint fluid and cushioning in the joint.
What starts the deterioration of the cartilage? Several causes have been found:
- Congenital problems or birth defects like elbow or hip dysplasia.
- Torn ligaments or joint injuries creating abnormal joint movements.
- Elderliness and weight. Aged and/or obese dogs are more susceptible to joint ailments and deterioration.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
The first sign to look for if your dog is developing arthritis is a limp or an irregular walk. Your dog will be avoiding the aching joint and attempting to move it as little as possible. Cold or rainy weather, as well as early mornings or periods after not using the joint for extended periods of time, such as a nap, will often worsen your dog’s limp.
Throughout arthritis’s progress, he will become less mobile and enjoy his routine less and less. Activities such as leaping on the couch, playing fetch, climbing in your lap, or longer walks may become too painful for him. Often times on the leg with arthritis the muscles will deteriorate from lack of use and appear much smaller than the adjacent leg. Also, dogs have been known to nip at the sore area to sooth the pain, and many owners will mistake this as a skin problem.
Treating the Pain of Arthritis
Treating your dog’s arthritis boils down to two main steps: pain management and getting the joint healthy again, or at least as healthy as possible. Don’t worry, your dog has a handful of options out there for help.
- For most canines, a veterinarian will prescribe an anti-inflammatory pain reliever (non-steroidal). Anti-inflammatory pain relivers generally have the best results and will get your dog in less pain as fast as possible. As with any prescription, some dogs can’t take these pain relivers, and tramadol and fentanyl are other alternatives. To avoid sickness or further injury to your dog, always ensure the drugs you give him are those prescribed by a veterinarian.
- A lot of supplements are on the market to assist dogs in the road to recovery with arthritis. A couple household name supplements are glucosamine and chondroitin. The purpose of these supplements is to protect the cartilage and delay its decay. Only a small portion of case studies have been completed on supplements, but they aren’t likely to cause your dog any harm.
- Another step in arthritis treatment is the regenerative of cartilage. Your veterinarian may prescribe a series of injections of Polysulphated glycosaminoglycans (i.e. sodium pentosane polysulphate) to aid in cartilage reproduction. Excellent advantages of this treatment method are quick signs of improvement and the renowned safety of the procedure.
- Fish oil containing Omega-3 fatty acids are another option for pain and inflammation reduction.
- Some veterinarians suggest prescription diets such as Hills J/D.
- Some canines have undergone acupuncture to assist with pain reduction in achy joints.
- Easy and light exercises, massaging the aching joint, physical therapy, and other gentle movements with the joint will help prevent stiffness and further pain.
- Any changes you can make in the house or in your dog’s environment to help him cope with arthritis pain will make his life easier. For example, consider moving his bed downstairs in a two-story home so he doesn’t have to climb the stairs.
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