If your dog is having trouble laying down and getting up, you may think you're seeing the inevitable signs of aging. While to an extent the degeneration of joints that comes with aging can't be avoided, much like for humans, research into arthritis treatments has made many arthritic dogs far more comfortable as they mature into their golden years. Here's how you can help dogs with arthritis.
What Is Arthritis?
There are two types of arthritis—a degenerative form that can occur during the normal aging process and an infectious form that can be caused by an infection or immune system disorder. In degenerative arthritis, which may affect one or two joints, the cartilage that protects the bones in the joints wears away. In inflammatory joint arthritis, which typically affects several joints throughout the body, the cause of the inflammation can be a bacterial infection such as that from a tick borne-disease like Rocky Mountain spotted fever or an immune-system disorder like lupus.
Signs of Arthritis
Much like for humans, the signs of arthritis in dogs include difficulty in laying down or getting up, lameness or stiff gait, slowing down on walks, and reluctance to play. Other signs include personality changes or cringing/flinching when being touched.
Treatment for Arthritis
For dogs with infectious arthritis, the root cause of the issue needs to be diagnosed by a veterinarian to determine treatment. For degenerative arthritis, several treatments are available to give dogs greater comfort such as painkilling medication or a program of exercise and rest. Swimming is often recommended by vets as a good form of exercise that takes pressure off the joints.
Many dog owners also report seeing benefits with adding supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin, methylsulfonyl methane (MSM), and/or hyaluronic acid to a dog’s diet.
Other options for degenerative arthritis include prescription medication such as carprofen (trade name: Rimadyl) and polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (trade name: Adequan). Surgery or laser therapy may also be an option. Your veterinarian can help you weigh your dog’s options.
Diet and Arthritis
The risk of developing arthritis is increased when a dog faces particular stresses on his joints. One way to help prevent arthritis is to ensure that your dog is fed a complete, balanced and healthy diet. If you’re unsure of what that means, talk with your veterinarian. If your dog is overweight, they are at greater risk of developing arthritis, and if they are already arthritic, the extra weight puts a greater burden on already overtaxed joints.
Quality of Life
Like people, dogs with arthritis can’t often do the things they could before. Arthritic dogs have more difficulty getting up into cars or onto a couch or bed. Products like pet stairs can help both you and your dog by allowing them the access to those favorite places while also helping you by not having to lift them.
Your dog’s sleeping place should be warm, dry, and comfortable. Orthopedic and heated or thermo-regulating pet beds can provide more comfort to arthritic dogs.
More on Dog Care
Nutrition for Your Senior Dog
Nutrition for Arthritic Cats and Dogs
All About Aging Dog Care
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.