Have you noticed some changes in your dog lately? Is it less active? Does it have a problem rising from lying position? Is it favouring one leg? Is it more stiff lately?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, your dog might be suffering from arthritis.
Arthritis is a group of disorders associated with the bones and joints. The meaning of the term arthritis is an inflammation of the joint.
There are a few types of arthritis. Some of them are related to auto-immune diseases, where the body attacks the joints as if they were foreign, which leads to an inflammation reaction.
More commonly, arthritis is a result of old age changes in the joints due to wear and tear of the joints. The damage starts with erosion of the cartilage, which causes loss of the cushioning effect of the joint leading to bones rubbing against each other. This process leads to permanent changes of the bones involved and accumulation of fluids in the joint. Those changes are typical to an inflammatory reaction, which is naturally very painful.
There are many symptoms for arthritis. The symptoms are generally associated with the pain resulting from using the affected joint.
Hence dogs with arthritis might favour one leg. They might be slow or reluctant to get up or to lie down.
They also may be reluctant to go for a walk or may want to go back home early in the walk.
They may be reluctant to go up or down the stairs. They may hesitate to jump up to the couch or let out a little yelp when they jump of the couch.
Sometimes you will notice that your dog is stiff early in the morning or at a beginning of a walk but appears to improve as it “warms up.”
While the changes caused by arthritis may not be reversible, there are measures you can take in order to slow down the process, and improve your furry friend’s quality of life.
First, if you suspect arthritis in your dog take it to see your veterinarian.
The vet can give the dog a physical examination for movement restriction and pain reaction, and possibly suggest an x-ray exam also be done to better visualize the changes in the affected joints.
Arthritis is treated with a group of non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs. These medications control the inflammation reaction in the joints and the pain associated with it.
Humans are also using many drugs of this group such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but never give your dog a human drug without consulting your vet because these drugs are toxic for pets.
Even the veterinary version of the drugs possess some potential hazards, so your vet might suggest performing blood work before prescribing the medication, and a periodical blood work while your dog is on the medication.
You can also give your dog food additives such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate or omega 3 fatty acids that are sold over the counter and shown to help relieve the arthritis symptoms.
You can also find prescription diets that contain those food supplements and support the joints.
Be aware that dogs with arthritis also like to lie on padded surfaces.
Arthritis is a common outcome of old age. Unfortunately nobody can change that. But it is manageable, especially if diagnosed early.