Canine arthritis cannot be cured and it is not always possible to prevent it, especially as your dog ages. However, there are things you can do at home to help ease or even delay the outbreak. Weight management, supplements, gentle exercise, and regular veterinary care make all the difference. Paying attention to subtle signs of a dog’s discomfort and adjusting your dog’s home and treatment as needed will help you out with your dog.
You may have noticed that your dog lost some feather in his stride. Does she seem reluctant to get involved in the activities she used to love, like chasing a ball or jumping in the car for a ride? Does it take a little longer to get out of bed? It could be canine arthritis, an often painful and debilitating condition of the joints that affects at least 20 percent of adult dogs.
What is canine arthritis?
Arthritis is inflammation within a joint that typically leads to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility over time. The most common type is osteoarthritis (OA), a thinning and eventually deterioration of the protective tissue between the joints.
In a healthy joint, cartilage and other tissues act as shock absorbers, contributing to smooth movement and flexibility. As OA breaks down these shock absorbers, it damages joint tissue and releases substances that cause painful inflammation. When cartilage breaks down, there is friction between the bones. OA most commonly affects the hips, elbows, knee joints (knee joints), and lower back of a dog.
What Causes Chronic Joint Pain?
Arthritis and chronic joint pain in dogs have multiple causes, often combined. These include:
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- Trauma from injury or repeated stress from vigorous physical activity
- Pre-existing joint instability due to rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or hip dysplasia.
- Genetics and anatomical shape (for example, short-legged, long-headed breeds such as dachshunds, bassets, and English bulldogs).
Certain larger breeds, including Labs, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds, have a higher incidence of joint problems than some of the smaller breeds, but any dog can develop arthritis if conditions are right.
How is chronic joint pain diagnosed in dogs?
To determine if your dog has joint pain from osteoarthritis, your veterinarian may use the following diagnoses:
- Physical exam to check for localized pain and swelling
- X-rays to look for abnormalities
- Gait evaluation and limb manipulation to assess range of motion
- Synovial fluid analysis to rule out other causes
Observing your dog at home is another powerful diagnostic tool. Unless they experience acute, sharp pain, dogs rarely vocalize, so it is important to monitor their habits and behavior. Symptoms of arthritis-related joint pain in dogs can be subtle in the early stages.
Look out for these signs in your dog.
- Decreased energy levels / more sleep
- Reduced interest in physical activity
- Negative reactions to being petted or touched in certain areas
- Difficulty lying down or getting up
- Reluctance to climb stairs, jump on furniture or jump into the car
- Pollution accidents in the house
- Increased panting or drooling (may indicate stress or pain)
- General irritability (chronic pain)
- Lameness / limping
- Vocalize with specific movements
Treat chronic joint pain at home
There is currently no cure for joint pain from osteoarthritis, but there are an increasing number of options that can help your dog with pain. Increasing mobility; and in some cases slow the degeneration of the articular cartilage. A multimodal treatment plan that includes a combination of medication, supportive care, and home remedies has proven to be most successful.
Consult your veterinarian before including these on your dog’s treatment plan. Your veterinarian can help determine the most appropriate weight loss strategies, as well as other therapies.
•Maintain a healthy weight is an essential ingredient in the treatment of joint pain associated with osteoarthritis in dogs. Obese dogs are more likely to develop arthritis because being overweight puts more pressure on their joints, which leads to increased stress. It is important to discuss your dog’s weight with your veterinarian and, if necessary, develop a weight loss plan.
•CBD (Cannabidiol, a cannabinoid derivative) is believed to relieve both pain and anxiety, and many pet owners are trying it to treat joint pain in dogs. It is considered safe in combination with other drugs, although it is partially metabolized by the same metabolic pathway as NSAIDs, so monitoring for possible side effects is recommended.
• At home Activities depend on the dog and the severity of your joint Pain, but a 10-minute walk two or three times a day instead of a long walk is a good rule of thumb. Because excitement and activity release endorphins and adrenaline, dogs may experience less pain while exercising and allow them to exaggerate.
• You can also massage gently your dog’s sore spots to increase blood flow and alternately apply cold and heat to the affected areas.
• Outdoor leisure with your dog is also good medicine. Sunlight stimulates the body to produce vitamin D, which supports the immune system, reduces inflammation, strengthens joints, and helps absorb calcium. Enjoying some fresh air will also improve your dog’s mood if they are feeling down from pain.
• Joint supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, MSM and others (see box) are called nutraceuticals. They can be very helpful in reducing joint discomfort and can also allow a reduction in the dosage and frequency of drugs when used in combination. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and the quality and effectiveness of dietary supplements can vary, so it is a good idea to consult your veterinarian for recommendations on which ones to try.
Best Supplements for Chronic Joint Pain
Many products contain combinations of dietary supplements on this list. • Glucosamine
• Chondroitin Sulphate
• Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)
• MSM (methylsulfonylmethane)
• Green-lipped mussel
• SOD (superoxide dismutase)
• Fortetropin (fertilized chicken egg yolk powder)
• ASU (unsaponifiable avocado / soybeans, available as dasuquin)
• Sea cucumber
How can I help my arthritic dog have a more comfortable life with chronic joint pain?
Try these changes in your dog’s home to make life with arthritis easier:
• Use portable ramps or steps for places where your dog can no longer jump.
• Provide thick bedding, such as memory foam or an orthopedic pad. Heated dog beds or dog-specific heating pads can also help with joint pain (the temperature should be warm but not hot). Make sure your dog’s bed is big enough so that he can stretch out if he needs to relieve painful joints.
• Make a path with non-slip carpets or yoga mats (use individual extra-long mats or look for 100-foot rolls of yoga mat material, available online) to help your dog slip on carpeted floors. Keep her nails and excess fur trimmed around her paws. Paw pads are a dog’s built-in traction, but dry or worn pads don’t grip well; try a thin coating of Sachet of balm or Musher’s secret. You can also Make yourself a paw balm in your kitchen. Booties or toe grips are another option for better traction. (Your dog may take some time to get used to it.)
• Lift food and water bowls off the floor so that your dog does not have to bend over or strain during meals.
• Use a lifting harness or support sling if your dog needs help getting up or has other mobility problems.
• acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular for treating joint pain in dogs and may be beneficial for some dogs.
• physical therapy is important to combat the effects of osteoarthritis in dogs. Low-impact exercise strengthens the muscles around the joints, helps maintain joint mobility, and relieves pain from stiffness. Some larger veterinary clinics now offer a variety of physical therapy options such as ultrasound, shockwave and targeted therapies using pulsed electromagnetic fields (tPEMF), electrical stimulation, range of motion and stretching Cold laser Treatments.
• Hydrotherapy (Swimming in a hot water pool or using an underwater treadmill) is a great, gentle exercise that improves muscle mass without putting too much strain on the joints. However, swimming in cold water can be counterproductive as it stiffens both joints and muscles.
While there is no cure for canine arthritis, there are steps you can take to help alleviate the effects of chronic joint pain at home. By combining several elements of treatment and support, including pain control, weight management, and gentle exercise, you can help your arthritic dog enjoy their golden years.