Lately, maybe you've noticed that your dog is having a little more trouble walking around, stretching and moving in general. When she gets up from a nap, she walks slowly towards you, and she is not pulling on the leash anymore when you take her outside. If she is getting older, she may have arthritis.
Here's how to figure out if your dog is exhibiting signs of arthritis.
Arthritis in dogs
Dogs can experience a number of different types of arthritis, but the one that most commonly affects them is osteoarthritis, which is also called degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis affects 20% of adult dogs, and it can occur in a dog at any age. However, it is more likely that your dog will get it when she is older. Your dog may also have this condition because of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, or it may happen because she had an injury at one point.
When dogs get older, their joint cartilage begins to thin. This cartilage is important because it protects and cushions the bones in their joints. If it gets too thin, the bones then rub against one another and break down, which leads to a decrease in mobility and pain. Spurs can also occur; these are inflammation in your dog's joint capsule that leads to extra bony growths. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but usually it happens in the lower back, shoulders, ankles, wrists, hips, knees and elbows.
Symptoms of arthritis in dogs
If your dog is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, she may have osteoarthritis. She may not want to play with you or get excited about fetch anymore. She may be hesitant to go up stairs or on walks, and has issues jumping up on chairs and sofas. Your dog might be sleeping more or lounging around the house more often than usual, and has trouble moving. She may be accidentally going to the bathroom in the house, doesn't like it when you pet her, is acting grouchy and has gained weight or changed her eating habits.
Treatment of arthritis in dogs
The first step for treating arthritis is to make sure your dog actually has it. After all, the symptoms can be vague and can also signal that something else is going on with your pup.
Take your dog to the veterinarian and describe the symptoms to the doctor. Your dog will likely be taken in for X-rays, and your vet may manipulate her joints to see if any grating or crackling sounds can be heard.
Arthritis is progressive, so you can't rid of it. But you can help your pup manage her pain and slow down the progress of the condition. Surgery may be one option, but usually you'll want to take smaller steps just to help your dog live more comfortably with it.
For example, your vet may recommend putting your dog on a healthier diet to help her lose weight, or taking her for more walks or for a dip in the pool. Low-impact exercise is shown to be beneficial for arthritis. A soft and warm bed can make your dog's joints feel better, and taking her in for physical therapy or a massage could help as well.
Your vet might also tell you to give your dog anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs, which reduce inflammation. If these drugs are used over a long period of time, they could have negative effects on your dog's kidneys or liver, so a blood test should be run before administering any drugs.
Finally, look into changing your dog's food. You should opt for senior food that contains ingredients that are beneficial to the joints, including vitamin E and the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid.
Before you make any adjustments, contact your vet for specific recommendations, since every pup is different.
By implementing a few simple changes, you can help your dog manage her osteoarthritis and ensure she has a comfortable and fulfilling life.