Arthritis, or painful inflammation and stiffness in joints, is common in pets and one of the most frequent issues we see in older dogs who visit us at LazyPaw Animal Hospitals. Though arthritis is irreversible, early detection and prevention can help your dog feel better longer.
Know the signs.
Limping or favoring a leg is an outer sign of inner joint pain, especially if the limp seems worse when your dog first gets up and gradually eases as your pet moves around. If your pup starts showing difficulty doing things that were once a breeze such as getting in the car, bounding up stairs or hopping onto the couch, they may be developing arthritis.
Your pup may also tire more quickly, since movement with arthritis joints causes discomfort. They may rest or sleep more often, too. If your pet’s arthritis is really bothering them, they may become fussy, snap when approached or handled, or bite when petted if the touch causes them pain.
Pets with arthritis may start licking, chewing and biting at painful areas. This can cause bacterial or fungal infection, which only makes them lick or chew more and worsens any inflammation.
There is no cure for arthritis, but there are several different treatments you can discuss with your pet clinic or animal hospital. Your animal surgeon will evaluate your pet’s symptoms, then examine your pet and do some joint tests where they will feel for stiffness, swelling, and crepitus (creaking or grinding). Your vet may recommend x-rays to see the affected joints in more detail and understand the severity of the condition.
There are several treatment paths your doctor may help you choose, including medications, joint supplements, and physical therapy. Prescription medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, analgesics, or adequan injections, which are each used to reduce swelling, pain, and stiffness.
Over the counter joint supplements work more slowly to lessen discomfort but cause fewer side effects than prescriptions. Common oral supplements include glucosamine and omega three fatty acids. Open minded pet owners may even opt for acupuncture or herbal remedies, which can take longer to work but could deliver good results over time. Physical therapy is another option that can include stretching, strengthening, improving range of motion, and massage.
Help prevent arthritis in your dog.
Arthritis isn’t always preventable, but you can increase your pet’s chances against developing the ailment. The biggest precaution is to help your pet maintain a healthy weight, since extra weight puts more pressure on joints (for advice on whether your pet is overweight, see How to tell if your pet is overweight). Going for regular walks and helping your dog engage in active play and other exercise will also keep joints healthy as long as possible. You can talk to your veterinarian or animal surgeon about dietary supplements such as glucosamine or omega threes to help your pet maintain healthy bones and joints throughout their lives.
Arthritis is no fun for pets or people, but with ongoing prevention and early treatment, dogs with arthritis can still enjoy healthy, happy, active lives. As always, if you have questions about your pet, give us a buzz at LazyPaw Animal Hospitals!