For many dogs, their years of running, leaping, bounding and rolling around take a toll on their bodies, specifically their joints. As they age, previously-active dogs may become sluggish, lethargic, slow to move or completely inactive. A common cause of this inactivity is arthritis.
Yes, arthritis—the painful condition many humans suffer from as they age, too. There are a few common types of arthritis in pets, but the most common is osteoarthritis, which usually appears in middle-aged to older dogs. Osteoarthritis is degenerative, meaning it is ongoing and can likely not be stopped. However, there are many things you can do to help soothe your pooch’s joint pain and keep them happy and healthy for longer.
Understanding canine arthritis
A major type of canine arthritis, osteoarthritis, is a degenerative condition caused by normal wear and tear on your dog’s joints. It is typically discovered in older pets due to a life full of activity and stress on these joints.
Joints are where two or more bones meet within the body. Tissue, called cartilage, helps cushion the bones and prevents them from rubbing together when your dog moves. Over time, this cartilage breaks down and inflammation and bone spurs can occur as a result, causing pain and stiffness. Arthritis can affect any of the joints in your dog’s body but is most often found in the hips, knees, elbows and lower back.
Not all dogs will develop joint pain as they age. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to developing arthritis, while others may develop it as a result of heavy weight, little to no exercise in younger years or previously sustained injuries.
How to spot your pooch’s arthritis
Changes in your dog’s behavior will likely be gradual, so it’s important to pay attention to your dog’s activity over time and take note of any potential symptoms of joint pain, including:
- Slow or limited movement
- Trouble getting up or sitting down
- Difficulty ascending or descending stairs
- Favoring one leg while walking
- Joint swelling
- Abnormal posture
- Increased lethargy
If possible, an early diagnosis of arthritis is best for your aging dog. The faster you notice the signs and take your pooch into the vet, the faster you can begin treatments that can slow the degeneration of its joints and help them feel better.
At-home treatments for canine arthritis
One of the first things people think of when it comes to arthritis treatments is medication, but it might be best to hold off on that approach until the condition becomes much more severe. Particularly if your dog’s diagnosis was made early, there are a lot of natural and simple methods of treating your dog’s arthritis.
- Regular light exercise: Your dog may not want to get up and move, or may be slow in doing so, but keeping Fido active is extremely important for maintaining healthy muscle and joint strength. Take your dog for a short walk every day to get it moving and engage in low-impact exercises like tug-o-war to prevent your dog from jumping or pounding on its joints too severely. Swimming can also be extremely therapeutic for arthritic dogs.
- Keep weight low: Keeping your dog at a healthy weight will not only improve its overall health, it will ensure there is no excess stress being put on its joints. Ask your vet about the appropriate weight for your pooch and what kind of foods will help get it there.
- Supplements: There are many supplements on the market that provide essential nutrients for joint health. Look for options with omega-3 fatty acids, which combat inflammation, as well as glucosamine, which has been shown to be helpful in regenerating cartilage and restoring overall joint health.
- In-home comfort: Make sure your dog has a comfortable place to sleep and rest. A firm bed will help support its weight and alleviate extra pressure on its joints. Help make their favorite places in your home accessible by providing good floor traction and easier ways to get onto sofas, beds and more.
- Therapy treatments: There are many types of therapy treatments that have been linked to positive results in arthritic dogs. Chiropractic and arthritic massage can loosen your dog’s muscles, align its structure and keep joints from being under too much pressure. Acupuncture is another treatment that is known to help arthritis symptoms.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: If other treatments aren’t working or your dog’s arthritis is very severe, speak with your vet about steroidal or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These medications are designed to limit inflammation and decrease pain, but should typically be used after more natural options are exhausted.
If your dog is suffering from joint pain caused by a type of arthritis, it doesn’t have to be a final sentence for their activity! Implementing a few healthy techniques and treatment options can help make painful joints more manageable for your pet and give you many more years of quality time with your pooch.