Dog moving a little slower now, walking a little stiffer? That may be arthritis. Like people, dogs can develop arthritis in their joints as they get older. But what does this mean in regards to dogs?
What it is and What Causes It
Canine arthritis is a disease of the joints causing pain, gradual loss of cartilage and lameness. This condition happens when the shock-absorber between then bones, called cartilage, swells then breaks down. As the cartilage gets thinner, the bones actually rub against each other causing pain and damaging joints. This leads to stiffness, pain, and swelling in the joints.
When it develops in dogs, it often occurs in the hips and elbows. As is gets worse, it just makes walking or moving difficult.
There are different types of arthritis and different causes. This is why medical expertise is important in diagnosis and treatment.
The most common type is osteoarthritis. This is degenerative-it develops over time and starts to show up most often in older dogs. Osteoarthritis is a genetic condition for some dogs-it’s just one of those things that happen over time. It is also a much more common occurrence with some breeds, especially those prone to hip dysplasia. However, osteoarthritis often occurs as the result from some previous, physical stress on the joint such as the trauma of a fall of repetitive contact like jumping on hard surfaces.
- Acute, traumatic arthritis: occurs very quickly (not over time like osteoarthritis) when an out-of-place joint-perhaps from an accident or improper exercises-is eroded and becomes inflamed.
- Infective arthritis: contracted through a bite, cut or infection. There are varied organisms that can cause this including Staphylococci, E.coli, and Lyme’s disease.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Arthritis?
Unfortunately arthritis goes undiagnosed since owners attribute the subtle changes in their dogs to old age or slowing down. How do you know whether to get your vet involved? Possible signs of arthritis include:
- Difficulty rising from a resting position.
- Lagging behind on walks.
- Yelping in pain when touched.
- Reluctance to walk, climb stairs, jump, or play.
- A personality change resisting touch.
But don’t assume arthritis that because Fido is stiff-legged after exercise, has trouble getting up in the morning, or is reluctant to go downstairs. It could be, but there are actually other causes for this behavior also.
Relief for Your Dog’s Arthritis
First, you need a diagnosis from a veterinarian. She or he is the best person to determine which treatment is best for each dog.
Whether surgery or medication is used, you dog needs a lifestyle that helps bring relief.
Sometimes surgery is advised if it can provide relief. Outside of surgery, various medication are commonly used. Over-the-counter painkillers should never be used without the advice of a veterinarian. Dogs with arthritis should be under veterinary care.
Common remedies include carprofen for pain and glucosamine for pain and anti-inflammation. Whatever is prescribed, make sure you strictly follow the administering procedures of the drug.
Excess weight causes more stress on the joints and exacerbates existing arthritis pain. Diet also plays an important part in arthritis treatment, especially to control the dog’s weight. So does exercise. It may seem counterintuitive, but moving around a bit almost everyday will help your dog and veterinarians and animal specialists recommend exercise for dogs with arthritis. Check out some good exercises to help your dog with arthritis, and see how a balance ball might be the perfect tool to help.