Arthritis in Dogs
As pet parents, we dread being told that there's anything wrong with our furry family members. And arthritis is often one of the most feared conditions because it causes chronic pain and drastically impacts mobility. But, if your dog has arthritis, does that mean no more walks in the countryside or runs on the beach? And what options are there when it comes to pain management for dogs?
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease, is a painful inflammatory condition that affects the joints. A healthy joint has bouncy cushions of cartilage, which act as shock absorbers and keep the bones moving smoothly. As well as cartilage, joints also contain joint fluid (synovial fluid), which acts as a lubricant and reduces friction. If your dog has arthritis, their cartilage becomes damaged, so the bones rub together. Over time the cartilage wears away even more, leaving the bone more exposed. As the bones rub against each other, their surface becomes rough and irregular, causing even more friction. Arthritis needs to be diagnosed by a veterinarian, and you can arrange an appointment with your BetterVet doctor. Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe dog arthritis pain relief and discuss other methods of pain management for dogs.
What Are the Signs of Arthritis in Dogs?
So, if your canine companion has arthritis, what signs might you notice? Well, you might see that they're stiff, especially after lying down or resting. They might also limp or be reluctant to jump or go up or down stairs. Some other signs of canine arthritis you might see include:
- Less enthusiasm for walkies than they used to. However, you shouldn’t disregard arthritis if your dog still rushes to the door with a wagging tail when you grab their lead. Being excited about walks doesn't mean they're not painful.
- Licking at joints or sore areas
- Muscle loss around the affected limbs
- Irritability or grumpiness
Of course, every dog is different and there may be other signs of joint pain that some dogs might show.
How is Arthritis Treated?
To determine whether your dog has arthritis, your veterinarian will need to examine their joints. An arthritic joint can feel a bit creaky and may not move smoothly. It might also be restricted and unable to move in the full range of motion expected of a healthy joint. If your veterinarian suspects arthritis, they may perform X-rays to assess the joint. But, once arthritis is diagnosed, what can you do about it? And what options are there for joint pain relief for dogs?
Pain Management for Dogs
One of the most important ways to help dogs with arthritis is to control their pain. Thankfully, there are lots of options when it comes to pain management for dogs including anti-inflammatories, opioids, gabapentin, paracetamol, and amantadine. In addition to these medications, pain can also be eased using alternative treatments like laser therapy. But, not all pain management methods have to be prescribed by a vet. You shouldn't underestimate the importance of what you can do at home to make your poor pooch more comfortable. Comfy padded beds, ramps, and accessible food and water will all help your painful pup. You can read more in our article about how to make a safe and comfortable space for your dog.
Many joint supplements are available, containing ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin, and other components that improve the quality of the cartilage and joint fluid. Some supplements also contain natural anti-inflammatories.
Hydrotherapy and Physiotherapy
Keeping them moving but not overdoing it is one of the key points for managing an arthritic dog. The pain of arthritis can cause your dog to have an awkward gait, which in turn can lead to tight muscles, muscle spasms, and even more pain. This can become a vicious cycle. Physiotherapy can help to preserve the joint's range of movement and relieve muscular pain. At the same time, hydrotherapy is a low-impact form of exercise, which is perfect for dogs with joint disease.
What Else Can Help Dogs with Arthritis?
Keeping your arthritic dog comfortable isn’t just about drugs; there are other things you can do, including:
It might seem like a mammoth task to get your podgy pooch to shed a few pounds when they’re struggling to exercise. However, if you can put your dog on a diet, their joints will thank you. This is because being overweight puts extra pressure on your dog’s joints. A slimmer figure won’t just benefit their health; it'll also help their mobility and make them more comfortable.
If your dog has arthritis, it’s tempting to stop walking them altogether and just let them rest in the house. On the other hand, some dogs are so keen to exercise that they still seem to manage the long walks they used to. In fact, the best approach is to take your dog on regular short walks to keep them moving and preserve their joint flexibility while not pushing them so hard that they end up stiff and painful the following day.
How can I ease my dog’s arthritis pain?
If your dog has arthritis, speak to your veterinarian about pain relief options. Alongside pain relief, you can help ease your dog’s pain by helping them lose weight, controlling their exercise, giving them joint supplements, and giving them a comfortable place to rest.
Are there home remedies I can give my dog for arthritis?
Arthritis is a very painful condition, and dog arthritis pain relief is only available as a prescription from your veterinarian. However, by keeping their weight down and taking them for shorter walks more frequently, you can help keep them moving more comfortably.
How long can dogs live with arthritis?
Dogs can live with arthritis for as long as their pain is controlled. It's important to keep an eye on them to ensure they're not showing signs of pain and have a good quality of life. Sadly, arthritis may eventually cause your dog to be weak, unable to stand, and in unmanageable discomfort. When the time is right, your veterinarian can support you in your decision to say goodbye.
Arthritis can be a painful and debilitating condition in dogs. Still, with the proper management and pain relief, there's no reason your furry friend can't continue to enjoy the great outdoors with you, in moderation, of course.