According to the Arthritis Foundation of America, did you know that one in five dogs suffer from arthritis? If you’ve noticed your older dog starting to slow down or having difficulty getting up and down, they could be suffering from arthritis.
Arthritis is a painful disease affecting the joints that can significantly impact the quality of your dog’s life and overall wellbeing. Knowing the signs of arthritis can help ensure your pet is diagnosed early. That way, you can work out the right treatment plan to help manage their pain and maintain their mobility.
How to spot arthritis
Arthritis can affect your pet’s hips, back, legs, and other body areas, which can make any type of movement painful. Some common signs to look for include:
- Finding it difficult to stand up from a lying position
- Experiencing difficulty when going upstairs or jumping onto a couch
- Noticing signs of muscle atrophy, which is most noticeable on the back legs where the muscles look to be thin or wasting away
- Refusing to walk or limping
- Shaking in your pet’s legs
- Growling at your touch
- Licking or panting excessively
If you notice any of these symptoms and have an older dog, it’s good to see your vet as soon as possible. Try to note any problems as they occur so you can provide as much detail as possible when visiting your pet. Your vet will discuss the symptoms with you, undertake a complete physical exam, and, if necessary, take radiographs to record images of the internal structure of your dog’s body.
If your dog does have arthritis, your vet will work with you to develop a care plan. The plan will consider your dog’s age, condition, and how severe the arthritis is to determine the best approach to managing the pain.
How to help your dog manage their arthritis
If your dog is diagnosed with arthritis, seeing your much-loved pet in pain can seem frightening. There are a few different approaches you can take. Under guidance from your veterinarian, you can help manage your dog’s pain so they can live a full and happy life.
Changing your dog’s diet
If your dog has arthritis, it’s more important than ever to make sure their diet is healthy and nutritious. Excessive weight in dogs suffering from arthritis can cause extra strain on their body and joints, creating more pain. If your dog is overweight, then a change in diet can help get them back to a healthy weight.
Ensure you understand the correct type of foods for your dog and chat to your veterinarian if you need any advice. For example, limiting grains or feeding your dog grain-free food can help with weight loss, which leads to less pressure on your pet’s joints to relieve pain and increase mobility. If necessary, your vet can prescribe specific foods that can help with arthritis that contain plenty of natural anti-inflammatories, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants.
Continuing with exercise
While exercise can be challenging if your pet has arthritis, it’s essential to maintain activity to keep their joints active and muscles strong. The intensity of exercise should be tailored to your dog depending on their pain and age. Aim for moderate exercise, which can help reduce pain and keep muscles toned, but make sure not to push your dog too much as it may cause additional stiffness.
Walking is an excellent option for dogs, and swimming is easier on the joints. Another good option for your dog’s joints is an underwater treadmill, which is usually available at canine rehabilitation clinics. These allow your dog to benefit from building muscles with little impact on the joints and may be recommended to you by your vet.
When diagnosing your pet, your veterinarian will usually do a blood test to determine if your dog is eligible to receive prescription medication. These are typically non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). You’ll need to follow the guidelines from your vet closely to administer the correct dosage and timing for the medication. Some medication does come with side effects, so it’s essential to discuss your concerns with your veterinarian.
There are many supplements available, and it’s worth chatting to your vet before starting your pet on any of these. This helps to ensure they’re safe and appropriate for your dog. Some supplements worth considering include:
- Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM which are used to help maintain joint health.
- Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation caused by arthritis.
- Hemp seed or CBD oil are from the cannabis plant. CBD oil has become popular in recent years, with anecdotal reports showing it helps with pain. Currently, there is no scientific data available on its effectiveness and it also has limited regulation. Hemp seed oil is a good source of omega 3 and fatty acids, which can help to alleviate joint pain.
- Zeel, also known as T-Relief, is used to help relieve symptoms and pain of arthritis in humans and pets. It’s available online or in health food stores.
Physical therapy can be helpful for dogs with arthritis, for example, water therapy or hydrotherapy. There are other holistic therapies that many pet owners swear by, like acupuncture, that can help with pain management. Acupuncture helps to stimulate blood flow and usually requires frequent treatments to begin with. Some other options include:
- Massage therapy helps stimulate blood flow, relax muscles, and ease stiffness.
- Rehabilitation therapy strengthens your pet’s muscles with exercises tailored specifically to your dog.
- Cold laser therapy uses a laser applied to the area affected by arthritis. It can take up to 20 minutes per session. It’s non-invasive, and some dogs find it relaxing, but you’re likely to need a few sessions to be effective.
- Chiropractic treatments are a good option if your dog has altered their regular movements. Sometimes altering the normal movement can cause paint to develop in other body areas, which can be helped by visiting a chiropractor.
Making changes in their environment
Making small changes around your home can help your dog be more comfortable at home and manage their pain. Some ideas include:
- Use mats or non-slip rugs that offer traction on slippery floors
- Use ramps or steps to help your pet access areas like stairs, beds, or couches
- Consider purchasing an orthopedic pet bed that offers joint support for your dog
- Consider a support harness if your dog needs extra help walking or going up or downstairs
- Use an elevated feeder to save your dog from bending if they’re having trouble bending down
- Keep your dog warm and dry. Outdoor living is usually not appropriate for pets suffering from arthritis
- Consider placing extra beds or water bowls around your home so your pet won’t have to walk as far to rest or drink
- Regularly trim your dog’s nails to help increase traction, reducing the strain on their joints