Arthritis is a common issue suffered by dogs as they get older, our old dog that passed away last year had arthritis as he aged, which made him more stiff and eventually impacted on his walks and quality of life. Arthritis is something that can be treated and managed to make your dog more comfortable and live a normal life for as long as possible. There are signs to look out for that may indicate your dog has the early stages of arthritis, so today’s blog is about that, how to diagnose arthritis in dogs, the early signs and what to do if you suspect they may have it.
Dogs the same as humans do suffer from arthritis, it can cause inflammation and joint pain which can affect mobility. Sometimes you dog may suffer from arthritis at an earlier age this can be due to genetics or their diet, or other health issues such as hip dysplasia this is not necessarily going to happen though as we had a Labrador when I was a kid that had hip dysplasia and apart from having to monitor his exercise to a certain degree he lived a normal active life and to a really good age and never suffered with arthritis.
Signs to look out for that may suggest early stages of arthritis
Some of the main signs to look out for that may tell you your dog is suffering for the start of arthritis are:
- Does your dog have difficulty getting up after lying down, especially first thing in the morning? Your dog may just be stiff from lying in one position for a long time, but worth getting it checked out if it is something that starts to happen regularly.
- Does your dog seem less active first thing in the morning, especially when the weather is colder. Although there is no real proof, for humans suffering with arthritis the cold weather increases pressure on the joints as they expand making them more painful, another theory is that vitamin D levels drop in the cold weather making the pain receptors more sensitive, this could also be the same for dogs.
- Does your dog seem to bear their weight more onto one or both of the front or back legs? For example when your dog gets up or moves from a still position do they seem to favour a particular limb to put their weight on, or maybe as they get up they lift a limb off the floor?
- Does your dog limp at all, or have you noticed a drop in their general activity? Maybe they are not running or playing as much as they used to.
- Has your dog stopped jumping? Whether to greet you, or in play or even onto the sofa, anything that they normally used to do before.
- Do you notice any signs of discomfort or pain when you touch your dog? Do they back away from your touch or look uncomfortable when you touch them in places that they didn’t mind being touched before?
Different types of dog arthritis
- Canine Hip Dysplasia, this is caused by looseness in the joint where the hip bone and thigh bone connect, sometimes as was the case for our Labrador the socket that the hip bone should have sat in had not formed properly so the hip bone moved freely. Symptoms of this usually start to show when the dog is young, a common sign might be a clicking sound when they walk, our dogs back hips didn’t look right when he walked so we took him to vets for xrays and found out what was wrong, he still had a normal fun life though.
- Degenerative Disc Disease is when the discs in the vertebrae begin to develop calcification and become rigid, it can result in ruptured discs or hernias (slipped discs), this usually starts to show signs in a middle-aged dog, and could likely be a genetic issue. Signs can be pain in the back or neck, walking becomes uncoordinated and maybe paralysis with no apparent reason or recent traumas.
- Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that dogs suffer from and is the most easily treated. It is permanent and progressive, and is the deterioration of the cartilage which surrounds the joints. It will develop over time as the dog ages.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is immune mediated polyarthritis in dogs, causes pain in the joints and can affect the whole body, and can affect more than one joint at the same time, it can cause lameness and can come and go without notice. It can be treated and managed.
- Stifle Joint Disorder is a condition in which the joint which is the equivalent of the human knee becomes unstable. This is usually caused by an injury where a ligament is stretched or torn. It can cause the joint cartilage to become damaged and inflamed causing pain, it can develop more over time due to the dogs physical activity.
Treating dog arthritis
First and foremost if you notice any signs that your dog is moving stiffly or differently to normally or seem to be in any pain, you should always consult your vet.
There are different treatments for dogs suffering with arthritis that range from natural supplements to prescribed medication from the vets. Natural supplements can be really effective in managing the effects of a dogs arthritis and do not have the potential side effects that some medications do. You can add Glucosamine to your dogs diet as a supplement even if they do not have any signs of arthritis as a preventative measure. Also, make sure your dog’s diet includes some omega 3- fatty acids, cod liver oil added to the food is good for joints and skin and coat too. As always consult a vet before adding to your dogs diet and ask correct amounts to give, and any joint supplements you use should be for dogs and not humans.
See the signs and get it treated early
Canine Arthritis can be a very debilitating disease if it is left untreated. As part of being a dog owner you should always keep an eye on them, regular general health checks are a must as you will notice any differences pretty much straight away and if any symptoms of arthritis are noticed you should consult your vet promptly, generally a natural supplement will be all that’s needed to manage the symptoms and keep your dog happy and pain free, this may need to be reviewed as your dog ages if you see symptoms increase or what you are doing doesn’t seem to be working anymore.
Glucosamine is a natural sugar and can provide pain relieving effects and help maintain healthy joint tissue and cartilage, without side effects of medication. It should however not be given to a dog that has liver or kidney problems and as always consult your dog’s vet first.