Arthritis is one of the most common diseases affecting dogs. It is a chronic, painful, degenerative condition that can develop gradually over time, affecting one or more joints, causing inflammation and pain for the dog.
Arthritis is not limited to certain breeds, it can affect any dog at any age. The majority of dogs go undiagnosed and untreated, leading to unnecessary pain and suffering.
Dogs experience real pain, which is comparable to the pain experienced by humans. The problem lies in the dog’s inability to communicate this pain, making it common for the signs of arthritis to be missed by pet owners.
The signs of arthritis are often put down to old age, however, it is a disease affecting all ages of dogs. There is a real need to raise awareness of the signs of arthritis and the treatment options available among pet owners.
The problem with arthritis is that when you simply look at your dog, they may look fine. Vets and owners feel more uncomfortable about noticeable fractures, cuts, and surgical trauma and think these are more likely to mean that there is pain present.
However, because of their nature, dogs tend to present symptoms quite late, leaving pet owners unaware that their pets have been suffering for a long time.
Pet owners are best placed to identify the early signs of arthritis, as they know their dog’s personality and can recognize subtle changes to his or her normal physical ability.
What are the signs of arthritis in dogs?
Signs that a dog may be suffering from arthritis include:
- reluctance to walk or play
- stiffness of joints in the morning or after a sleep
- licking or biting of joints
- difficulty in rising from a resting position
- difficulty in climbing stairs
- change in personality – less happy or playful sometimes aggressive and irritable.
Once a thorough clinical examination of the dog has been undertaken, sometimes with x-rays and blood tests, the veterinarian and pet owner can work together to manage arthritis.
What can I give my dog for arthritis?
The treatment may include a combination of weight loss, dietary review, and exercise, plus some form of medication. Veterinarians can prescribe a number of different medications that are effective for arthritis and have excellent safety profiles.
Exercise probably more important for a dog’s health in the winter than in the warmer months. Try to take your dog for a regular walk each day to stretch its muscles and generate some heat.
Old dogs with any tendency to rheumatism or arthritis will get markedly worse if not exercised in the cold weather. If your aging dog is obviously stiff and having difficulty moving in the cold, consult your veterinarian, who can prescribe a safe remedy to help keep the dog active and comfortable.
There is no cure for arthritis, but it can be satisfactorily controlled to minimize pain and maximize mobility – and the dog’s quality of life.
The key is to seek early diagnosis and treatment, particularly in the warmer months so pet owners and their dogs are prepared to cope with the arrival of winter and the drop in temperature. During the colder months, the signs of arthritis are exacerbated and the pain intensifies.
Dog owners may like to try massage, acupuncture, and other methods to combat the onset of further arthritis complications.
Work closely with your vet for some time after diagnosis to manage the ongoing treatment regime. This will ensure that your dog is getting the best treatment, especially in younger dogs – to help prevent further pain later in life.