As we’re rugging up and keeping warm in the cooler months, now is the time that many dog owners will notice signs of discomfort or joint pain in their furry loved ones. This discomfort and pain may be caused by arthritis.
Arthritis, what is it? Arthritis is a common disease in dogs, cats and humans. This condition typically develops in older dogs, mostly from general wear and tear in the joints. While we never want to see our beloved furry companions in pain, arthritis (also known as osteoarthritis) is easily diagnosed and can be managed through a tailored treatment plan for your dog.
What is arthritis in dogs?
Each joint in a dog, such as hips, elbows, shoulders and knees, contains a cushioning material called cartilage. This tissue acts as shock absorption for dogs when they run, wrestle and play, preventing bones from directly grinding against each other within the joint.
Helping the cartilage to glide smoothly is a substance called synovial fluid. This fluid provides the joints with lubrication so that the joint moves without friction and can function easily – similar to how you would oil a door hinge to stop it from grinding and squeaking.
Over time, cartilage can be torn or injured, or simply wear down from physical activity. Arthritis occurs when cartilage deteriorates and the synovial fluid isn’t able to lubricate the joint effectively. As the joint becomes inflamed and swollen, it will cause your dog discomfort, reduced mobility and usually a degree of pain.
Signs your dog may have arthritis
Our pets can’t tell us when they’re not feeling well, so it’s not always easy to see the signs of distress of soreness. However, there are many ways a dog may demonstrate that they’re suffering from arthritis. These signs and symptoms include:
- Moving away or making noises of discomfort when you touch their joints
- Walking slower and lagging behind on their walks
- Excessive licking (beyond cleaning) of their joints
- Reluctance or disinterest in exercise, climbing stairs, playing their favourite games, or jumping and other forms of agility
- Demonstrating pain or stiffness when getting up or down from bed
- Limping, or showing lameness in one or more of their limbs
Pain from arthritis can often be stronger after rest, cold weather or vigorous exercise, so if you’re hoping to spot the signs of arthritis make sure you monitor your dog’s movements throughout the day. As arthritis progresses, your dog will show these symptoms more obviously as their discomfort increases.
Paying attention to your dog will help you to spot these symptoms early, which will help with giving them the treatment they need to be comfortable and stay active.
How to treat arthritis in dogs
There is no cure for arthritis, but that doesn’t mean your dog needs to suffer needlessly. With the help of our friendly vets at Matraville, we can help you manage the inflammation and pain your dog may feel in their joints.
Here are some of the ways you can reduce the pain and discomfort your furry loved one may be experiencing:
Weight control. Pets that carry around too much weight will end up aggravating the inflammation in their joints. By keeping your dog within a healthy weight range you’ll reduce the irritation in their joints and help reduce the progression of arthritis.
Nutrition. Science has shown that both humans and dogs that have a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids have reduced inflammation within their joints and slow the progression of cartilage degeneration. Speak to our team about the appropriate amount to feed your dog, either through diet or supplements.
Exercise. Even though your dog may experience discomfort during movement, it’s important to maintain healthy activity levels that are appropriate for their condition and age. Walking and swimming are the best ways to keep them healthy while managing their arthritis.
Environment. Keeping your pet warm and away from the cold will reduce the severity of symptoms throughout winter. If your dog is unstable on slippery surfaces, rugs will help them to feel more stable on their feet. Comfortable bedding, especially those made with memory foam, will help them keep unnecessary pressure off your dog’s joints when resting. You may also want to provide your dog with extra assistance when getting in and out of cars or look at creating ramps to help them move more easily.
Massage. Gentle massage of your dog’s muscles, avoiding the joints entirely, can help improve circulation to weakened muscles and decrease stiffness. You can either try this yourself or hire a professional.
Veterinary treatment. The types of treatments your vet can offer you will depend on the age of your pet and the severity of the arthritis your dog is experiencing. Treatment could include:
- Osteoarthritis drugs
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Physical therapy
- Prescription diets
Not sure if your dog has arthritis, or just unsure how best to treat it? Call us today and book a consultation so we can give your pet the care and attention they need to live their happiest, healthiest lives.