Arthritis in dogs is a common health issue, which can affect both dogs and cats. The term arthritis simply means inflammation of the joints and can be caused by general wear and tear due to age.
Pets can’t directly tell you that they are suffering, but subtle changes in their behaviour could help to identify if there is a problem. These changes can vary throughout your pet’s life.
Common signs of arthritis
Your vet should be your first port of call if you suspect that your dog may be suffering with arthritis. They will be able to tell you which joints are affected through an examination. They may suggest further tests, such as x-rays to investigate properly.
These will help to confirm and locate arthritic change and can sometimes identify underlying causes. Arthritis is common in overweight pets and a combination of weight control and exercise management can help to reduce load on the joints and maximise mobility.
Signs that your dog may be struggling with arthritis may include:
- Stiffness when getting up after rest or sleeping
- Lagging behind on walks or not interested in walking at all
- Irritable and interact less with family members
- Lick or bite at irritable joints
- Sleep or rest more in easy to reach places
- Struggle to jump into the car or be able to get up and down the stairs
- Enlarged or swollen joints
Some breeds of dog are more at risk of developing arthritis, including, Labradors, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Bernese Mountain dogs. Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. Once the cartilage is damaged it rarely repairs itself. Treatment can vary depending on the severity of the arthritis but reducing the inflammation and pain of the joints can help to make your pet more comfortable. Exercise is also often recommended to help to maintain and improve joint movement and flexibility. There are several treatments and medications that can help to manage the symptoms of arthritis and help your dog to lead a pain free and happy life. Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often recommended to reduce swelling and pain. However, there are more natural options including Hydrotherapy. This can be an effective form of exercise as it doesn’t apply too much pressure on the joints.
Natural joint supplements often called nutraceuticals are also recommended by vets. These can be used together with other forms of medications and treatments to support and maintain your pet’s joint health.
How to manage arthritis in pets:
It’s important to manage your pet’s arthritis and joint health to ensure they can lead a happy and healthy life with you. Mobility can greatly affect their quality of life with even the smallest of tasks like jumping onto furniture or bending down to their food bowl being a task.
Excess weight can put pressure on joints, aim to reduce your pet’s weight and keep them at a healthy weight for their breed and age. Speak to your vet before starting your pet on a diet, they can offer advice on the best way forward.
It is important that your pet gets regular exercise to avoid stiffness and muscle wastage. Avoid long or infrequent walks and make sure your dog goes for several, short walks throughout the day. Think little and often to keep the joints mobile.
Feed your pet a good quality diet. Reassess your pet’s food and consult a veterinary professional who can recommend the best diet for their needs. Where appropriate, raise water and food bowls so your dog or cat doesn’t have to bend down to them.
Keep your pet warm and avoid cold and drafty or damp conditions that can aggravate joints. Provide a cosy warm place to sleep with enough room to find a comfortable position. Add extra bedding for senior pets and shorthaired dogs to help pad around their joints. Try to limit stair use and jumping on or off furniture.
If your pet suffers from joint stiffness, help with grooming as they may not be able to groom as freely.
Help around the home
Continuously jumping on furniture or in and out of the car can easily cause injury. Install pet-friendly ramps or steps to reduce any jumping which can damage their joints. Use rugs or carpets which are less slippy and can help to reduce accidents around the home.
Key nutrients for joints
Glucosamine HCL and Chondroitin Sulphate are essential for maintaining healthy joints, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and synovial fluid. Boswellia Extract supports the body’s natural anti-inflammatory process and plays an important role in maintaining smooth and comfortable joint movement.
Advice from vet
Regular vet visits ensure your pet’s joints can be monitored frequently and the best up-to-date advice can be given. Ensure you follow your vet’s advice.
You could consider alternative methods to help your dog or cat, such as physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. These can help to increase circulation and mobility in your pet. If you are concerned about your pet’s joint health speak to your vet as they are best placed to offer advice and the best solution with regards to your pet’s health needs.