What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a medical term used to describe an inflammation of the joints and it is an issue that affects many dogs. Normally, the bone surfaces in a dog’s joint are covered with a thin layer of cartilage that is lubricated with joint fluid which functions to prevent excessive friction when the two surfaces glide over each other. With age, the cartilage wears out such that the bone surfaces now rub against each other whenever the dog moves. This results in some sort of stiffness in the joint and causes major discomfort to your dog.
The major cause of arthritis has been identified as age and according to the Whole Dog Journal, Osteoarthritis affects one in five adult dogs, with the incidence more than doubling in dogs that are seven years and older. It is important to note that bigger dogs are more predisposed to arthritis than the smaller ones. There is also the issue of genetic disposition; some joint problems are specific to certain breeds. For example Rottweilers will have more ankles and knee issues, Newfoundlands will experience cruciate ligament disease, Bernese mountain dogs usually have elbow dysplasia, and others like that.
In most cases, joint problems in dogs begin slowly and are usually quite advanced before most owners notice it. Some of the signs that your dog might be experiencing joint problems may include:
- The dog starts taking less part in activities,
- stops running as long as it used to
- has problems with everyday activities like climbing the stairs, getting into the car or even getting up on the couch
- holding up the limb or favouring a particular limb over the others
- noticeable pain
Generally, the treatment options could be surgical or non-surgical. Surgical treatments are used in extreme cases where there are no other viable options, and they can range from arthroscopic cleaning of the affected joint to a complete replacement of the joint.
There are many things to consider when taking the non-surgical option and they include:
Weight management and body condition:
Overweight dogs are more prone to joint problems; therefore measures should be put in place to maintain an ideal weight for your dog. This will decrease the stress that is put on the joint, thereby reducing inflammation. This can be achieved by getting your dog exercised regularly.
The diet of the dog is also another major point to consider. Feed your dog with foods that contain additives like fish oils which help in the reduction of inflammation. Also feeding your pet with lower calorie foods that are high in calcium, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and glucosamine as it grows, will help reduce the risk of arthritis.
Heat therapy, hydrotherapy:
Placing your pet in a hot tub for a short period of time can decrease its pains especially in the cold weather. The heat relaxes the muscles, causes increased blood circulation and this results in a lessening of the pain. The effects of a short period of treatment can still be felt for a couple of hours after the heat has been removed.
A dog with arthritis will benefit greatly from professional rehabilitation programs. There are many therapy options available which may include ultrasound therapy, underwater treadmills, massage, and electric stimulation. Most dogs have been observed to be more active after undergoing these sessions because they not only increase better circulation; they make the dog feel better.
Better sleeping arrangements:
A warm cozy bed equipped with a safe heating pad is the best bet when taking care of an older dog with arthritis. The dog will sleep better and will experience less of the stiff joints whenever it wakes up.
Ramps and other devices:
For old pets that can no longer climb the stairs, building a ramp is a good way to go. A stable wooden ramp with a gentle slope will help your pet get into cars and also go up the stairs easily. You can also purchase carts, slings and other devices to return some of your old dog’s mobility.
Keep a close on on your dog and check for signs of arthritis. Taking prompt steps to keep your dog comfortable will help prevent the likelihood that he will suffer. Regularly schedule visits to the veterinarian are always important but even mores as your pet ages.