Dog arthritis, also called osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, is when a dog’s joints have become inflamed and it’s a condition that can be quite painful. When a dog becomes afflicted with arthritis, the smooth cartilage that covers their joints starts to break down, exposing the bones and increasing wear and tear on them.
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Causes of Dog Arthritis
Dog arthritis is one of the most common afflictions a dog can suffer from and that’s partly because there are so many things that can cause it. Some of the most common causes of dog arthritis are:
- Joint infections
- Dislocation of the joints
- Trauma to the joint or bones
- Some conditions that are inherited, such as hip dysplasia
- Problems with the dog’s immune system
- Injury to the tendons or ligaments
- Weight conditions, especially obesity
- Natural erosion of the cartilage due to aging
Larger breeds have more weight to carry around, and because the joints have to support that weight at all times, arthritis is often more common in these dogs and they can even suffer from it at a much younger age. However, smaller breeds can also get the condition, especially as they start to get older or if they have inherited the condition from their parents.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
Your dog may be suffering from arthritis if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Stiff gait
- Limping, or favoring certain limbs
- Difficulty standing or sitting up
- Limbs that seem lame, or simply cannot be used properly
- A noticeable swelling of the joints, or stiffness when the dog walks
- Painful wimps or cries when the dog is touched in certain areas
- Suddenly won’t sit or lie in certain positions that they once loved, possibly due to pain in the area
- A noticeable loss of flexibility in their joints
- Hesitation when jumping, running, or climbing stairs
Diagnosing Arthritis in Dogs
If you think that your dog might be suffering from arthritis, it’s important that you get them into a vet as soon as possible. While arthritis certainly isn’t life-threatening, there are treatment options that can make your dog much more comfortable. When looking for signs of arthritis, the vet will most likely perform a physical exam to check for areas of pain and discomfort. The dog’s medical history will also be taken into account, especially any trauma to the area that could have caused the arthritis.
If the medical history of the dog’s parents is known, the vet will also study this and take it into consideration as well when making a diagnosis.
Treating Arthritis in Dogs
While there is no cure for dog arthritis, there are several treatment options, all of which are very simple and non-invasive. These treatments can make your dog much more comfortable and help further their quality of life.
There are many medications that can help your dog including antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, painkillers, and natural supplements. Some dog owners don’t hesitate to give their dogs human medications, such as Aspirin, to help alleviate the pain of arthritis. Keep in mind however, that this should never be done unless on the advice of a veterinarian.
Taking into consideration the fact that arthritis is often caused by obesity or weight problems, providing your dog with a healthy and nutritious diet, as well as making sure they get lots of exercise is an important element of their treatment program. Make sure that any exercise you provide your dog with is low-impact so it doesn’t further aggravate the condition.
Preventing Arthritis in Dogs
The only thing dog owners can really do to help prevent the condition is to provide their dog with a good, healthy diet and proper exercise. Doing so can also help slow the progression of the condition once it has set in. For larger breeds, monitoring the amount of food they’re eating during the time they’re still growing can also help identify and diagnose the condition. But it’s important to remember that in most cases, especially when the condition has been passed down by the parents, preventing arthritis can be nearly impossible to prevent.
Working With Your Dog’s Arthritis
While there may be no cure, and medications given for treatment may only relieve the symptoms, there are some things that you can do to make your dog more comfortable. They include:
- Making sure they have soft bedding in the area they sleep so that it’s more comfortable for them.
- Playing with them regularly in a gentle way with shorter play sessions.
- Gently massaging them, especially in the area of their arthritis.
- Taking them to physical canine therapy.
- Using a low crate or a raised feeder for their food and water bowls. This will help reduce strain on their spine and neck.
- Bathe and brush the areas of their body that their arthritis might make difficult for them to reach.
- Have a dog ramp installed in places where they need to climb, such as at the foot of the bed, or to get into the car.
Watching a dog struggle with their arthritis can be heartbreaking, but there are things you can do to help. Make sure that you take them to a vet at the first signs of the condition, as there are many treatment options for dog arthritis, as well as simple things you can do to make them more comfortable.