Arthritis is one of the most common diseases that our canine companions encounter. This painful condition is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the soft tissues surrounding a dog’s bones begin to wear down, causing friction, stiffness, inflammation, and pain. This painful condition affects as many as 80 percent of our canine companions that are over the age of eight. Read on to learn more about how to understand, manage, and reduce your dog’s arthritic pain from a Denver CO veterinarian.
What Is Canine Arthritis?
Arthritis in dogs is very similar to arthritis in humans. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in both people and pups. This painful condition is caused by the gradual wearing away of cartilage between Fido’s joints. It typically affects the weight-bearing joints such as the hips, shoulders, wrists, and knees. Over time, that soft tissue thins and loses its elasticity. This causes friction, swelling, and inflammation, which is of course very painful.
Arthritis can seriously affect Fido’s health, happiness, mobility, and quality of life.
Symptoms Of Arthritis In Dogs
Fido can’t tell you if something is bothering him, so you need to constantly be on the lookout for warning signs. A limp is usually the first thing you’d notice. Your canine friend may seem stiff and sore. He may limp, especially when first standing up. At first, this lameness goes away as he moves and warms up. However, it will gradually get worse over time.
Some other red flags to watch for include fatigue, loss of appetite, lack of interest in play, and reluctance to jump, climb stairs, or get in and out of the car. Your furry pal may also lick or nibble at sore joints. He may not be very interested in exploring new trails, chasing squirrels, or going to the dog park, and he may seem irritable or depressed. Inappropriate soiling can also be a sign, especially if your pup has to go up and down stairs to get outside. Contact your Denver CO veterinary clinic right away if you notice any of these.
Can Arthritic Pain In Dogs Come On Suddenly?
In most cases, arthritis begins gradually and gets worse slowly but steadily. However, symptoms can suddenly worsen. Cartilage has no nerves, so Fido may not feel pain from that wear and tear until the affected soft tissue loses its ability to protect his joints. Therefore, you may not notice anything wrong until Fido’s condition has become quite severe.
When Do Dogs Get Arthritis?
Arthritis is most commonly seen in older dogs, but it can happen at any stage of Fido’s life. In fact, about one in five dogs will show signs of osteoarthritis before they are one year old.
Remember that not all dogs age at the same rate. Large dogs reach their golden years before small breeds. For example, a Saint Bernard or Great Dane may be considered old at seven years, while a Chihuahua may not be considered a furry senior until he’s ten years or even older.
What Causes Arthritis In Dogs?
The main culprit here is usually simple wear and tear. All that running and playing is rough on Fido’s bones and joints! However, that isn’t the only factor. Diet also plays a big role. If your pet didn’t get proper nutrition when he was a puppy, his risk of developing osteoarthritis will also be increased. Any problems during that big (and adorable) growth spurt can lead to health problems down the line. This is especially common in large breeds: that huge growth spurt takes a toll on them.
Genetics is another factor. Some breeds are more susceptible to arthritis than others. These include the Labrador, Poodle, German Shepherd, Pug, and Golden Retriever. Fido’s exercise program also plays a role: too much exercise, too little exercise, and/or the wrong type of exercise can also increase his risk. Repeated jumping or “standing” puts undue stress on Fido’s joints, and can make the condition worse.
Pooches that have had injuries such as broken bones or ligament damage are also at higher risk, as are those with certain health problems, such as obesity, hip and elbow dysplasia, diabetes, and osteochondrosis.
Last but not least, canine arthritis can also sometimes develop as a side effect of a more complex condition, such as an autoimmune deficiency. Ask your Denver CO veterinarians for more information.
What Are The Treatment Options For Dogs With Arthritis?
How Is Arthritis In Dogs Treated?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to canine arthritis treatment. If you suspect that Fido is showing signs of arthritis, or think he may be at risk due to his breed, health, age, or medical history, contact your veterinarian to schedule a thorough physical exam. Once your furry companion has been diagnosed, you can learn about different treatment options. These may include supplements and/or medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids or cortisone, and chondroprotectors, which can help prevent cartilage breakdown. You may also want to consider alternative options, such as laser therapy, massage, or acupuncture. Ask your vet for more information.
How To Keep An Arthritic Dog Active
Joint pain can make it uncomfortable for dogs to run and play, and it will certainly dampen Fido’s love for chasing balls or sticks. Just don’t let your puppy become a couch potato. Otherwise, he will lose muscle mass, which will affect his general body condition and cause muscle atrophy, ultimately making the situation worse. A lack of activity will also make Fido more likely to exceed his ideal weight. Keep in mind that your pet’s ideal fitness regime will depend on his age, weight, health, breed, and, of course, preference. Your vet can give you specific advice on this. That said, most dogs need at least a daily walk to stay healthy.
How Can I Prevent My Dog from Developing Arthritis?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee that your furry friend will never develop arthritis. Aging and genetics are major contributing factors to arthritis, and those cannot be controlled. However, proper care and preventive measures can significantly slow its progression.
Diet plays a pivotal role here, both for nutritional and weight control reasons. Excess weight has many detrimental effects on Fido’s health, and can put significant strain on his bones and joints. This isn’t mere speculation; research, including studies by the University of Glasgow and Utrecht, has shown that weight loss significantly improved mobility and reduced lameness in arthritic dogs. Supplements, such as glucosamine, may also be beneficial.
Of course, Fido will also need to come in regularly for physical examinations. Ask your Denver CO vet for specific advice.
What Factors Worsen Arthritis In Dogs?
There are several factors that can make arthritis in dogs worse. Weather can aggravate this condition. Dogs often feel stiff and sore on cold days, just as humans do. In winter, Fido may prefer napping in his bed to running around outside, and who can blame him? If your canine friend has a thin coat, put a sweater or jacket on him when it’s cold outside. Your vet may also recommend using a heated towel or even a heating pad set on low. Obesity can also exacerbate arthritis. Keep your four-legged friend at a healthy weight!
Please reach out to us, your local Denver CO veterinary clinic, to learn more about canine arthritis. We are here to help!