Dogs are creatures of movement. Their playful nature is an innate characteristic and their shameless way of displaying affection has endeared us to them.
But if you start noticing stiffness in the way your dog walks, or cringing while being petted, these could be signs there is something wrong. He or she may be suffering from arthritis.
How Do You Know it’s Arthritis?
Our dogs’ physiology changes as they grow old. The signs and symptoms of arthritis develop gradually and over time, which is why pet owners do not detect there is a problem right away.
They may have difficulty climbing up the stairs, or may seem to be favoring one leg over the other. They may be slow to stand up after sitting or lying down for a couple of hours. Prolonged periods of sleep, as well as weight gain are also signs of arthritis.
What Kind of Arthritis It Is
There are 3 main kinds of pet arthritis.
1. Developmental arthritis is an inherited condition in which a dog’s joints did not develop properly. Degenerative arthritis happens over time due to wear and tear, and is something that happens naturally as the dog grows old.
Two of the most common examples of developmental joint problems are hip and elbow dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is caused by a malformation of the ball and joint socket; whereas elbow dysplasia is commonly caused by stress fractures due to abnormal forces placed on the joint. Both will cause your dog pain, which will result in them becoming lame.
2. Inflammatory arthritis, also called rheumatoid arthritis, is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to mistake the body’s own protein as an antigen.
3. Conditions such as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease becomes more likely as the cartilage surface of the joints become damaged and the cells are not replaced. This cartilage is extremely important; it stops the bones of the joints rubbing directly against one another. When it degrades, the bones start to rub which results in pain. Highly active dogs may be at more risk.
Arthritis can develop from a high-calorie, carb-based diet, resulting in obesity. The excess weight puts more pressure on a dog’s joints and cartilage, resulting in arthritis.
Treating Canine Arthritis
Canine arthritis is a degenerative disease, which means it does not have a cure. For the pet parent, it’s hard to see the dog who used to play with such abandon be saddled with this disease.
Many owners are quick to use the suggested “big-gun” remedies for treating arthritis like steroids or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Steroids, however, have a “breakdown” effect on the body after prolonged use. They can also lead to diabetes, medically-induced Cushing’s disease, liver inflammation, and other serious issues. The side effects of NSAIDs are even worse – with the potential to cause death. That being said, some dogs do benefit from steroids or NSAIDs, but they should only be used in extreme cases.
But the great news is that there are natural ways you can do to slow down its progression:
- Massages – Remember how great it felt to have a deep tissue massage after getting injured from a game? That same feeling can be felt by your dog. A great pet massage stimulates the blood flow to atrophied muscles and releases endorphins, which is the body’s natural pain reliever.
- Acupuncture – A great alternative to a massage is veterinary acupuncture. The pointed needles are inserted in specific locations of your pet’s body, allowing blood vessels to dilate and oxygen blood to flow smoothly around the stressed joints and muscles.
- Hydrotherapy – Water exercise in a controlled environment will not put extra stress on your pet’s aching joints. The buoyancy of water provides cushion-like support. The water also provides a wide range of motion that will make your pet more limber.
- Orthopedic bed – This specialty bed has built-in features to help your aging dog. It has memory foam that is firm enough to make it easy for your dog to get up, and cushiony enough to support the aching joints. Pet beds can also be equipped with safe heating pads that ease the aches and pains that come with arthritis.
- Physiotherapy- This can include water therapy (using an underwater treadmill), acupuncture, stretching, and massages from certified dog-masseuses.
- Joint supplements. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which helps reduce inflammation and chronic pain in the joints. Chondroitin and glucosamine-based products, on the other hand, contain processed cartilage. Chondroitin is harnessed from bovine cartilage while glucosamine is harvested from crustacean shells.
- Glucosamine is useful as it provides the building blocks of cartilage that support the bones and is often used with chondroitin which also helps produce cartilage.
- MSM, or methyl-sulfonyl-methane. provides the required compounds that aid cartilage development and increase the amount of healthy connective tissue. It can also provide an anti-inflammatory effect, reducing pain in some cases.
- Green-lipped mussel is actually a type of shellfish found off the coast of New Zealand. Once in fine powder form, it can be added to joint supplements as it contains glucosamine, glycosaminoglycans, and omega-3 fatty acid.
Being diagnosed with arthritis does not mean the end of the world for your dog. There are many long-term treatments that you can look into to improve the quality of life of your dog, and to make him or her still enjoy life to the fullest.
Make sure you provide your dog with proper nutrition and adequate exercise to prevent joint damage. And, before you resort to the typical arthritis treatments, make sure to try every natural resource out there. It is much safer and could quite possibly save your dog’s life!