Have you noticed some changes in your dog lately? Is it less active? Does it have a problem rising from lying position? Is it favoring 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 few types of arthritis. Some of them are related to Autoimmune 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 at the cartilage. There is 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 inflammation 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 favor 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”.
So what can you do to help your buddy? Well the changes that are associated with arthritis may not be reversible but 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 will examine the dog. The Vet will perform physical exam, which will include passive movement of the joints to check for a pain reaction or restrictive movement range of the joint. The Vet might also suggest performing an X ray exam in order to visualize the changes in the affected joints. This will either confirm or rule out Arthritis.
Arthritis is treated with a group of drugs that are called “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 posses 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 symptoms of Arthritis in dogs. You can also find prescription diets that contain those food supplements and support the joints. Keeping your dog active can help in both maintaining the range of motion in the joint and also maintaining normal body weight. 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. Please consult your veterinarian about treating your dog’s Arthritis in order to keep you buddy comfortable, safe and happy.