Arthritis in dogs can be as painful and uncomfortable as it is in humans. If you suspect your canine friend has arthritis or is showing signs of the same, do not worry. With the right diagnosis and management, it is possible to give your dog a good quality of life and minimal discomfort. Let us try to learn more about what arthritis is, some common causes, and how to help a dog with arthritis at home.
What is arthritis?
Like how it is in humans, arthritis in dogs includes swelling of the joints. It can make performing everyday tasks and even simple movements very hard. As the lifespan of our furry friends is increasing, so is the prevalence of arthritis. Many studies have established that almost one out of five dogs will have arthritis in their life. Arthritis has many forms and is most common in senior dogs. The most common form of arthritis in dogs is osteoarthritis, which impacts several joints. In osteoarthritis, joints such as hips, lower back, elbows, and knees are at the highest risk of damage and degeneration.
In any healthy dog, the bone’s surface has a thin layer made of a smooth tissue called cartilage. It works as a natural lubricant to allow joints to function normally as they rub on each other. When this lubricant (cartilage) undergoes damage, the smoothness in the rubbing of joints and bones decreases, this roughness leads to joint pains. Apart from that, it also leads to limitations in moving the joint and stiffness due to extra bone formation. This formation of extra bone formation is termed as bone spurs.
The causes of arthritis in dogs
Arthritis in dogs is typically the result of aging. However, there is a possibility of it developing in younger dogs too, mostly due to incorrect development of bones and joints. Arthritis can develop after coarse rubbing within joins due to instability (such as ligament damage), any damage to the cartilage formation, or injuries from trauma (like a fracture). Like humans, symptoms of arthritis can occur at any time throughout the lifespan of a dog.
What signs and symptoms do dogs with arthritis show?
In arthritis, early diagnosis and treatment is the key to ensure a pain-free life for your dog. One of the most frequent questions that owners have is what symptoms to look out for. The most common arthritis symptom is stiff joints and limping. A more comprehensive list of symptoms is discussed ahead.
- Decreased interest in exercise: As arthritis progresses, your dog may not want to exercise as much. You may notice a decrease in willingness to go for a walk or play in general.
- Difficult to get up after prolonged lying down: After lying down for longer periods, dogs with arthritis experience stiffness of the joints. It makes getting up more painful for them.
- Lameness in the leg(s): If your dog is avoiding weight on one or more legs (‘Bunny hop’), then it may be due to arthritis. To avoid feeling pain in the affected leg, it may avoid putting weight on it.
- Aggression towards other dogs or humans: With increasing discomfort, your dog may show more aggression towards other dogs or humans. It can be due to irritation from the pain and stiffness.
- Lethargy: If your dog becomes lethargic suddenly, does not move about a lot and prefers to stay in the same position for a long time, then it may be from arthritis.
- Other symptoms: Difficulty in ascending stairs, gaining weight, spending more time asleep, appetite changes.
If you notice signs like the ones above, then you should get in touch with a veterinarian for early diagnosis and treatment.
What are the risk factors associated with arthritis in dogs?
The most common factor associated with arthritis is age. However, many other factors may make your canine friend at a greater risk of developing arthritis.
- Large breed dogs such as German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers have a higher risk of arthritis as compared to small breed dogs.
- Obesity is a major risk factor, as the fat causes the joints to undergo more stress than usual.
- Genetic factors or hereditary
- Joint trauma or repeated any repeated injury to the same joint
- Infections caused by bacteria leading to a degeneration of joints
- Deficiencies in the immune system or irregularities
- Tick-borne ailments such as Lyme disease
What should you expect if your dog is diagnosed with arthritis?
If your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis, then you may have a lot of questions running in your head. For those thinking about how to help a dog with arthritis at home, there are many ways that you can do that. There are no treatment methods that can completely cure arthritis and reverse the damage. However, with proper care and treatment methods, it is possible to minimize pain and ensure a good quality of life for your dog. As long as you follow the advice of your veterinarian and take some basic measures, you can expect your dog to have minimal discomfort.
How to help a dog with arthritis?
As a pet owner, knowing how to help your dog suffering from arthritis is a must. Little knowledge can often cause more harm. Some of the things that you can do to help your dog with arthritis are up ahead.
Get a confirmed diagnosis
While this sounds obvious, it is still the first step. Being sure that it is a case of arthritis in your dog is essential. Your dog could be under pain due to a variety of other reasons too. This is why you should have your vet’s confirmed diagnosis for arthritis before starting any treatment. The most common diagnostic technique in radiodiagnosis. X-rays, MRIs, or CT-Scans help to find arthritis and the joints affected by it.
Obesity is one of the biggest causes of joint problems in dogs. If your dog has arthritis or you even suspect that, bring its weight under control. Being overweight increases the stress on joints, leading to wear and tear and eventually arthritis. For dogs already suffering from arthritis, obesity will accelerate joint degeneration and make movement even harder as time passes.
A good diet is vital to promoting healthy joints and decreasing any further discomfort. Foods that contain a high quantity of EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) has shown to decrease inflammation in the joints. Glucosamine rich supplements such as Cosequin DS have demonstrated positive results in helping dogs with joint issues regain mobility. It is available in different flavors and is also rich in other elements that help a dog’s joints. More information about the right diet is also mentioned ahead.
For a dog that is suffering from arthritis, any daily activities should not put stress on the joints, as this may increase the pain. Keeping water at food bowls at a comfortable raised height wherein the neck and back are not under stress will help. It will help ensure that they are taking enough diet and not missing out due to any pain. However, bowls at height are not suitable for dogs prone to bloating. In such cases, a professional’s advice should be taken before making any changes. For houses on multiple floors, keeping food and water on every floor helps to make them more accessible and decreases the need to climb stairs.
Soften hard flooring to avoid slipping
Any hardwood floors can increase the chances of slipping, which places a lot of stress on the body. Carpeting hardwood floors in places where your dog goes frequently will help avoid that and make it more comfortable to lie down too.
Long nails can change a dog’s gait, which further leads to skeletal modifications. These can cause arthritis of the toe/foot. Regularly trimming your dog’s nails also helps maintain hygiene.
Regular controlled exercise
With the onset of arthritis, the stiffness and pain in joints can make movement harder. While this may decrease the amount of exercise it wants, it is vital to ensure that there is at least some form of regular exercise. Lack of physical activity can cause muscle wastage. Moderate walking is the best form of exercise. Avoid anything that may require your dog to run or jump as these can worsen the effects of knee and back arthritis.
There are many other things that you can do to help your dog. More comfortable bedding, using heating pads, ramps to help on stairs, and getting on to furniture are some other things to help a dog adapt. Get more creative and figure out what else you can do to decrease stress on its joints yet promote a healthy, active lifestyle.
What should you avoid doing?
For a dog with arthritis, knowing what not to do is also essential. Here are some of the things that you should avoid as a pet owner if your dog is suffering from arthritis.
Do not self-diagnose
Self-diagnosing your dog can make the situation worse. Only a veterinarian can confirm arthritis in your dog after a thorough examination. In majority cases, radiodiagnosis will be necessary to confirm any type of arthritis.
Do not force a wrong exercise regime
While the dog needs to have sufficient physical activity every day, it should be controlled and not too intense. Forcing your dog to exercise in a way that it is not comfortable with can worsen its condition. Avoid any exercises that place unnecessary stress on its joints and restrict any unnecessary movements too.
Do not discontinue exercise
The most important aspect of dog arthritis treatment home remedies is to ensure just the right amount of exercise. If it has absolutely no exercise, it will lead to joint stiffness and weaken the dog’s muscles. It can negatively impact the lifespan of the dog as well. There should be moderate exercise done regularly.
Do not ignore falling or sliding
Do not ignore your dog sliding or falling. Care must be taken to avoid them as much as possible. Falling or sliding places a lot of stress on the dog’s joints and can lead to severe complications later.
Do not use medications without a vet’s advice
Regardless of what any other pet owner tells you, do not provide your dog with any medication without the advice of your veterinarian. Different dogs respond differently to medication, and the condition may not be the same too. Unless recommended by a doctor, do not give any medication to your dog for arthritis.
Modifying your dog’s diet to help with arthritis management
The two biggest aspects of arthritis management in dogs are exercise and diet. While plenty has been discussed regarding exercising, do note that diet plays an even more crucial part. Certain elements may increase inflammation and the onset of arthritis. Removal of certain grains completely from the diet has shown a lot of improvement in arthritis-related problems. Plants that belong to the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, potatoes, all kinds of peppers as well as eggplant have been indicated as promoters of arthritis.
With all this list of what’s to be avoided, a homemade diet is necessary for a dog with arthritis. Foods like ginger, celery, and tropical fruits like mango and cartilage have shown positive results of reducing inflammation. These foods should be blended in puree form or cooked to aid digestion. Some people have also noticed that water, along with some apple cider vinegar, has also shown benefits. However, you should be sure that your dog will drink water with vinegar. Placing a separate bowl with just water will help you to judge that.
While these are just some of the information to help you get started, you should not worry if your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis. With the internet, there are a lot of resources such as YouTube videos for natural arthritis remedies, other pet parents that you can connect too and a lot of professionals to seek help from. All of these are there to help dogs with arthritis lead their lives without discomfort.