Dogs of any age can suffer from mild to severe cases of arthritis. Your canine may develop the condition due to age or even genetics. They may also damage their joints as a result of an active lifestyle of running, jumping, and playing hard. No matter the cause, this is something you should be watchful for in your pup and be ready to take action should the condition manifest.
Failing to address your dog’s arthritis could affect them in small ways, such as causing them discomfort and challenging their movements. Or, it could affect them seriously by causing debilitating pain and putting them at risk of further injury or lameness. Fortunately, there are signs you can look for to help determine if your dog may be suffering from arthritis, and treatments to get them back on their feet.
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Does My Dog Have Arthritis?
First, it is important to understand that “arthritis” is not a single disease in and of itself. Rather, it is a general term referring to joint pain, disease, or inflammation. (1) Your dog, like any human, can suffer from this ailment in many different forms, but you will most commonly encounter one of two major types.
Osteoarthritis – This is the most common type of arthritis. This is a degenerative condition that occurs when joint cartilage wears away, causing the bone to rub against bone. This causes pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – This is an autoimmune disease in which your dog’s immune system targets healthy joint cartilage instead of disease or infection. It is characterized by painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion.
According to doctor James L. Cook, the director of the Comparative Orthopaedic Laboratory at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the earliest signs of canine arthritis can be difficult to spot. (3) Typically, you’ll notice your dog having mild difficulty with common activities:
- Difficulty getting up and down, climbing stairs, or jumping up onto places like the couch or car
- Reluctance to climb, run, walk, or play
They may perform these tasks slower than usual or seem to avoid doing them altogether. If their condition advances, the indicators may become more noticeable. Common symptoms include:
- Favoring of legs
- Limited mobility
- Noticeable swelling or inflammation
- Tenderness or fear of touch
In advancing stages, your dog may be affected to the point of severe pain that can result in lameness, which is the complete inability to move or walk. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, they may also experience infections in other areas of their body, as well as loss of appetite, and weight loss. (2,3)
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, consult immediately with your veterinarian so your pooch can get treatment and relief as quickly as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions About Canine Arthritis
Weight management and body conditioning are typically early treatments for signs degenerative arthritis. Exercises focussed on building muscle mass and improving muscle function will help protect the joints
Dietary options are also common, focussing on foods that are formulated for joint health. These food options have additives like fish oils that help decrease inflammation.
Various medications may also be prescribed by your vet, such as anti-inflammatories, analgesics, and pain relievers. For more serious cases that include additional joint damage, surgery may be necessary. (4)
Is surgery the only treatment for more serious joint injuries?
No! Though it varies according to the specific injury, in many cases your dog will be able to take advantage of an abundance of surgery-free physical therapy options. Methods like underwater treadmills, electric stimulation, and ultrasound therapy are taking center stage for canine rehabilitation. (4)
Are there any vitamins or supplements I can give my dog to help with arthritis?
Yes, some additives like glucosamine/chondroitin could help where arthritis is present. It will not eliminate arthritis in the joint, but it may slow down the progression of osteoarthritis. Supplements that are low in sodium are better for your pup since dogs have trouble processing high doses of salt. Making sure your dog gets the vitamins and minerals they need is one of the best ways to prevent serious health conditions.
Fish oils are anti-inflammatory in nature and may have fewer side effects than medications, but you should always discuss all options with your vet before starting your dog on any food or diet supplements. (6) You can also look to incorporate joint health by switch out your dog’s treats to Free Me from TruDog and CBD Muscle & Joint chews from Bona Vida. This might be the tastiest way for your pup to work on their joint health!
Are some breeds more prone to joint issues and arthritis?
In general, larger and heavier breeds may be more likely to be at risk for joint problems. (4) There are, however, very breed-specific problems for some dogs. For example, rottweilers are prone to hip dysplasia (7), while Bernese mountain dogs more commonly suffer from elbow dysplasia. (8) The key is to research your dog’s breed carefully when they first join your home to be informed of any specific predispositions toward joint issues or other conditions.
First and foremost, staying on top of your dog’s weight and fitness is paramount to their likelihood of developing certain forms of arthritis. Making sure your dog stays active and healthy will help prevent a large number of health issues down the road – including arthritis. Keeping them happy and well exercised will help keep their joints healthy and strong. We all love a cuddle buddy, but make sure your bed warmer also gets a chance to walk, run, and play each day.
In addition to daily activity, a balanced and nutritional diet will help keep your dog’s joints in good health throughout their life. Evaluate the food you offer your pup and don’t settle for the cheapest brands with tons of filler. Work with your veterinarian to find the best diet for your particular breed.
In the case of a breed-related or hereditary predisposition, make sure you take your dog to the vet regularly – at least annually – so their joint health can be monitored. If you are proactive, then you and your vet can catch signs of arthritis early and take measures to prevent their condition from worsening over time. (5)
Whatever your dog’s breed, age, or activity level, as a pet parent you surely want them at their happiest and healthiest! Be attentive to their needs and quick to respond to any signs of joint discomfort, and your best friend can live their best and most pain-free life as your forever companion.