Did you know arthritis is common in dogs? But it’s not just older dogs. Arthritis can occur in any dog breed and at any age. Let’s learn more about arthritis signs in dogs and how to treat it.
What Is Arthritis In Dogs?
Arthritis, also known as Osteoarthritis (OA) in dogs, is a complex disease. It’s a degenerative joint disease, occurring when one or more of your canine’s joints have inflammation or degeneration.
It’s not a fun disease for your furry friend to go through. Arthritis causes pain, which interferes with their everyday activity.
Arthritis can be caused in our pets over time by many factors. So, let’s talk about some of these causes.
What Causes Arthritis In Dogs?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one single cause of osteoarthritis. It’s not limited to a senior dog, either. Young dogs can get arthritis. This issue can occur anytime within your doggy’s lifespan for several reasons.
The downfall of joint health isn’t limited to your doggo getting old. There’s always an underlying issue that causes it.
For example, common causes of arthritis in dogs may be the following:
- Activity history (too much exercise or not enough)
- Abnormal joint development (such as canine hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, or patellar luxation)
- Body weight (obesity causes joint pain)
- How the dog was built (developed)
- Injury history (any past injuries, such as damage or erosion of cartilage, fractures, joint infections, ligament damage, or muscle injuries)
- Nutritional habits (overall diet)
- Orthopedic surgery
As you can see, canine arthritis can occur for anything. Sometimes it’s something you can control (such as your dog’s diet or exercise habits), and other times, you can’t. For instance, how your puppy developed growing up may be a contributing factor.
The cartilage on joints acts as a shock absorber in the body. It’s a cushion between the bone and impact, which creates the joint.
When the cartilage is damaged, cells die and release enzymes which cause the joint to become inflamed. Thus, the joint produces low-quality joint fluid.
Growths on the bone called osteophytes develop, thinning the cartilage. As a result, the cartilage eventually deteriorates, no longer acting as a shock absorber.
Now your dog’s bones and joints are no longer protected by the cartilage, thus creating arthritis and joint pain.
What Are Common Arthritis Signs In Dogs?
There are many signs of arthritis in dogs. So you won’t need to guess much about whether they have painful joints.
Your doggo may not show all the signs at once or only specific dog arthritis symptoms.
However, some symptoms dog owners should keep an eye out for may be the following:
- Abnormal gait
- Aggression or other behavior changes (such as irritability or withdrawal)
- Difficulty maintaining a healthy weight (weight gain or weight loss)
- Difficulty rising and lying down
- Having accidents in the house (or difficulty getting into position to go the bathroom)
- Lameness (on one or multiple legs)
- Licking or chewing affected joints
- Muscle atrophy (for example, legs look skinnier due to lack of movement)
- Reluctance to go up or down the stairs (or jump up or down from furniture or the car)
- Sensitive to being touched in certain parts of their body
- Sore joints
- Stamina loss (or being tired)
- Stiff walking
- Swollen joints
If you notice one or multiple of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian to get your furry friend checked out.
How Do Dogs Get Diagnosed With Canine Arthritis?
Diagnosing your dog with canine osteoarthritis is relatively easy. However, there are several tests your vet can do to cover all their bases.
For instance, a physical examination to feel your dog’s joints is the first step.
In addition, your vet may take x-rays and perform blood tests. In the early stages of this disease, blood tests are the way to show exactly what may be going on.
Also, blood tests help rule out other issues, such as bone cancer.
Arthritis Treatment For Dogs
Once your dog is diagnosed with arthritis, there’s no going back. This disease cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Otherwise, it can be fatal to your dog.
Several dog arthritis treatments can help your canine companion live a long life with arthritis and be as comfortable as can be.
Arthritis Medications For Dogs
For example, some of the best medicine for arthritis in dogs are joint supplements or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Joint supplements reduce inflammation, slow the progression of joint damage, and support overall function. In addition, it’ll help decrease pain.
Most joint supplements contain ingredients, such as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, that allow your dog to remain comfortable with arthritis.
NSAIDs do the same as joint supplements. They’ll reduce pain and inflammation. However, these medications for arthritis in dogs can have side effects, especially if they have an underlying health issue, such as kidney disease.
Before treating your doggo’s arthritis with medication, discuss it with your veterinarian first. Together, you can plan the best course of action to aid your pets.
Another way to help combat arthritis is to help control your dog’s weight. They should maintain a healthy weight for their breed size at all times.
Discuss a proper diet with your vet throughout your dog’s life stages. Obesity can cause many dog health issues, let alone make arthritis worse.
In addition to a good diet, your dog should have plenty of physical exercises every day.
However, every dog breed has different needs. For example, an energetic American Bulldog will be more likely to exercise than a smaller French Bulldog.
Low-key exercise can also help your pup with arthritis. For example, walking in shallow water is a great way to keep them moving without putting too much pressure on their bones and joints.
On the other hand, your vet might recommend different methods to improve your doggo’s movement with arthritis.
Depending on the severity of the osteoarthritis, your vet may suggest physical therapy, cold laser, physiotherapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, massage, or surgery.
How To Help A Dog With Arthritis At Home
Finally, there are many ways you can help keep your pet comfortable in your home.
For example, you can provide your doggo with an upgraded bed designed for stiff joints. In addition, orthopedic beds with memory foam are comfortable and cause less pressure on your dog’s bones.
You can get runners or area rugs for hardwood flooring in the house to help your dog not slip in certain areas.
For entering the car, for example, ramps are much better than having your dog jump in and out. If your pup is small enough, you can carry them up and down the stairs. However, be careful with how you hold them, so you don’t add pressure to any sensitive areas.
Finally, raised food and water bowls are also ideal, so your dog doesn’t need to bend down as much.
Question Corner: FAQs About Arthritis Signs In Dogs
To learn more about arthritis in dogs, you can read through the frequently asked questions about the topic answered below.
Which Joints Are Most Commonly Affected By Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis can occur within any joint. However, it’s more common at the ankle (hock), elbow, hip, intervertebral joints (backbone or spine), knee joint (stifle), shoulder, or wrist (carpus).
Is Arthritis In Dogs Preventable?
Optimal pet care is the best way to prevent arthritis (or delay it enough). As a puppy, allow your doggo to grow and develop slowly. Provide them with high-quality nutrition, take them to the vet regularly, and give them ample exercise.
Can Canine Arthritis Be Cured?
Unfortunately, no. Once your doggo’s joints are bad enough to have arthritis, they can’t heal themselves. So, the best way to handle your dog’s arthritis is to help them remain as comfortable as possible and work with your vet.
Which Dogs Breeds Are More At Risk For Arthritis?
Large dog breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and Great Danes, are prone. Small breeds prone to patellar luxation, such as Chihuahuas or Yorkshire Terriers, can get arthritis. In addition, dogs prone to hip dysplasia, such as Saint Bernards or Labrador Retrievers, can get arthritis.
Should I Get Pet Insurance?
It’s never a bad idea to get pet insurance. Specific treatments for your dog’s arthritis (such as physical therapy or surgery) can be pricey. So, you can certainly ask your vet what pet insurance they accept to help give the best treatment possible for your furry friend.
Do You See Signs Of Arthritis In Your Dog?
Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to prevent arthritis in your dog. However, if you notice symptoms, call your vet right away. Then, you can delay the worst of it and work together to make your dog as comfortable as possible.
Rachel Poli is a content writer and author, but her real job is being a stay-at-home pet mom. Her zoo currently consists of a dog, a cat, two turtles, and two fish tanks. She’s also an avid pet sitter for a few local families, caring for various animals.
After realizing how little information there is for pet sitters on the internet, Rachel decided to start her own animal website. She strives to educate pet parents and pet sitters about the overall care of our furry friends.