Hip and joint problems can make your dog miss out on the fun things he used to enjoy. But don’t worry, when caught early, there are safe and effective ways to ease the pain. This is what you need to know about joint problems in dogs:
What is arthritis?
Arthritis means ‘inflammation of the joints’ and is a painful joint disease that can cause your dog to appear stiff and sore. Arthritis is a common problem for many dogs, especially older dogs. A dog with arthritis may slow down and restrict his typical activities. He may be less willing to jump up into the car or climb stairs. He may stop running and may have a reduced appetite or depressed attitude. Even though arthritis is a problem seen in older dogs, the condition can develop from an early age following problems with bone and joint development. Depending on the cause, arthritis can affect one or more of a dog’s joints.
Signs and symptoms of arthritis
As the a dog parent you must know if your dog is uncomfortable because of joint problems. Typical signs of joint problem in dogs include:
- Trouble getting up and down
- Slow or stiff when moving
- Difficulty climbing stairs
- Joint swelling
- Excessive panting
- May not be as keen to exercise as before
- Frequently holding a leg off the ground
- Favoring one leg
How is arthritis treated?
Nowadays, there are so many different therapy options available, but since arthritis is worse in old, overweight and unfit dogs, the most important therapy is the combination of weight control and exercise management. This means minimising load on the joints, and maximising the range of movement and fitness of the muscles around the joints. Of course, there’s a lot more you can do. Here’s a list of the most successful treatments for dogs with joint problems:
- Weight loss: This may involve calorie restriction, change in dog food brand and increase in exercise.
- Fish oil supplementation: This is a very cost effective treatment that has other health benefits in addition to improving joint function.
- A healthy diet: This is the foundation of your dog’s health. A fresh food meat based diet works best for most arthritic dogs.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture isn’t just for people. This painless technique has shown some success in animals suffering from arthritis. Acupuncture is a great way to increase joint mobility as the insertion of needles improves blood flow to tight muscles which improves the movement of the joints.
- Laser therapy: Laser therapy has similar benefits as acupuncture. It can reduce pain, relieve muscle spasm, and improve joint motion.
- Safety at home: Make it better and easier for your dog to move around at home. Put a carpet over hardwood floors to reduce those slip’n’slide moves that sometimes happen to older dogs or dogs with joint problems. Or you can try dog-booties. That will allow your dog to walk better on all surfaces.
- Keep your dog warm and dry: Since cold and damp conditions can aggravate arthritis. Consider investing in a padded dog bed and apply warm compresses to painful joints.
- Medical treatment: Pain medication, and other medical treatments, may help relieve pain and improve your dog’s movement. Always talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any medication (or if you have any question regaring your dog’s health).
- Regular checkups: Take your dog in for regular checkups so that your veterinarian can monitor your pet’s arthritis and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.
- Surgery: If your dog’s has advanced arthritis, surgery may be an option. Ask your veterinarian about the pros and cons of surgery and what you can expect.
- Affection and care: A low-stress environment and plenty of affection and care can help your dog feel so much better.
Can joint problems in dogs be cured?
In terms of prognosis, unfortunately it’s the case that once your dog’s joint(s) has been damaged it rarely repairs itself completely. But the good news is many pets can successfully be made pain free by appropriate long-term use of medication and sensible management to control further deterioration. With so many different therapy options and the variety in severity of arthritis, many dogs cope well, leading full and active lives without any veterinary intervention at all. However, certain patients will require treatment ranging from simple lifestyle changes to complex surgery.
Of course, no one wants to see their dog being in pain. But don’t worry too much if your four-legged friend has arthritis! There are many ways to help relieve pain, improve function, and extend quality of life for your beloved pet.