If you've ever felt aches and pains in your joints, you have some idea of what arthritis feels like. Now imagine enduring that pain on a daily basis, week after week. Eventually you’ll do more than complain, you'll go to the doctor for help. If you have a senior dog, you need to know the symptoms of arthritis so you can give him the help he needs when the time comes.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is inflammation of a joint. With arthritis, the bones rub together due to damage to the overlying cartilage and tissues that would normally provide protection. The most common types of canine arthritis are osteoarthritis, immune mediated arthritis and infectious arthritis.
What causes this condition?
Some dogs are pre-disposed to arthritis. For example:
- Dogs that have hip dysplasia, excessive strain on their joints, or previous injuries
- Older dogs, particularly large dogs aged 5 years old and up, and smaller dogs aged 8 and up, and those that are overweight.
However, not all dogs that match those descriptions get arthritis. Some dogs, just like people, never suffer from arthritis at all.
What are the symptoms?
If you think your dog may be experiencing the onset of arthritis look for signs of stiffness and pain in the joints. Here’s what to look for:
- Stiffness on rising after a long rest that eventually seems to go away as your dog moves around.
- Difficulty going up or down stairs, rising from a sit, and/or performing other movements that were formerly a part of your dog’s everyday life.
- Avoiding being touched or exhibiting pain when someone touches him.
If you suspect your dog may be suffering from arthritis, take him to the veterinarian for a diagnosis and help.
How can I help ease my dog’s symptoms?
Although there is no cure for arthritis, with your vet’s help you can still do a lot to help your aging friend.
Controlled exercise. Although vigorous exercise may be painful for an arthritic dog, exercise shouldn’t be avoided. However, keep it gentle, such as low-impact exercises, like swimming and walking. In fact, these exercises may actually help decrease the symptoms of arthritis because they keep the joints moving and help maintain muscle support.
Healthy weight. Being overweight puts more pressure on a dog’s joints, and his symptoms may be worse. If your arthritic dog is carrying around too much weight, you should consider putting him on a calorie-controlled diet. Your vet can help you determine the optimum weight for your dog.
Therapeutic massage. A comforting massage makes you feel better, and it can do the same for your dog. If you know the technique, you can massage your dog at home, or take him to a professional dog masseuse. Either way, your dog will appreciate the relief a massage will bring. If you choose to do this yourself concentrate on areas that may be especially painful and stiff, such as the muscles near your dog’s joints, and knead these areas gently.
Comfort and care. Arthritis pain is aggravated by the cold, so keep your dog warm by adding an extra blanket or two to his bed, and keep him inside on damp, cold days. Barometric changes in the weather can also aggravate arthritis by causing pressure changes in the joint.
Prescription medication. There are many medications that can help ease the pain of arthritis. Your veterinarian will recommend the type of medication most suitable to your dog based on the type of arthritis he has. Never give medication to your dog without consulting your vet first.
Proper diet. Feeding your dog food that's rich in antioxidants reduces the stress of aging by fighting the free radicals that are by-products of inflammatory processes, such as arthritis. Two other nutrients that can also benefit joint health are glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate—natural compounds found within the body that help provide lubrication and nourishment to your dog's joints. PEDIGREE +™ Healthy Joints is specially formulated with natural sources of glucosamine to promote healthy joints and help maintain mobility. And when it’s time to give your dog a treat, try Good Bites® Hip&Joint.
By following these treatment suggestions you’re giving your dog the help he needs to continue enjoying many of his favorite activities, whether it's joining you on the couch or taking a short walk in the park. And that translates to more quality time for you and your senior dog.