When Shep started having trouble laying down and getting up, his owners sadly thought they were seeing the inevitable signs of aging. But, much like for humans, research into arthritis and treatments has made many arthritic dogs far more comfortable as they mature into their golden years.
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 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 would need to be diagnosed by the veterinarian to determine treatment. For degenerative arthritis, several treatments are available for dogs to give them greater comfort including painkilling medication and a program of exercise and rest—both as recommended by the veterinarian, in addition to a healthy diet. Many dog owners also report seeing benefits with adding supplements containing glucosamine, 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 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. In addition to stress involved from constant overexertion, like excessive jumping, diet can not only aggravate existing arthritis but it can also play a role in the dog’s eventual development of the disease.
To help prevent arthritis, ensure that your dog is fed a complete, balanced and healthy diet. If you’re unsure of what that means, talk with your veterinarian. One of the most important things you can do to prevent and alleviate effects of arthritis is by helping your dog to maintain a healthy weight and not allowing him to become obese. If your dog is overweight, he is at greater risk of developing arthritis, and if he is already arthritic, the extra weight puts greater burden on already unhealthy and 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 him the access to those favorite places while also helping you by not having to lift him.
Your dog’s sleeping place should be warm, dry and comfortable, whether he is arthritic or not, but especially so for the arthritic dog. Orthopedic and heated or thermo-regulating pet beds can provide more comfort to arthritic dogs.
With numerous options available, you can help keep your arthritic dog more comfortable and feeling like his old self.