Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints that not only affects humans but dogs, too. Also known as arthritis, it can seriously impact your dog’s mobility and cause discomfort. Although there is no cure for arthritis, it is possible to manage the symptoms and delay its progression to keep your dog comfortable and mobile for as long as possible. As a dog owner, it’s important to keep an eye out for early signs of arthritis to ensure your dog gets treatment as soon as possible.
However, the early signs of arthritis can be intermittent and subtle. Your dog may not necessarily limp or show signs of being uncomfortable. For this reason, many older dogs may suffer from untreated arthritis.
So, what kind of arthritis symptoms can you expect to see in dogs?
Several symptoms are associated with arthritis including:
- A reduction in activity levels
- A reluctance to play or go for walks
- Walking more slowly or falling behind
- Stiff legs especially on rising in the morning
- Limping or lameness
- Difficulty climbing stairs or jumping into the car.
However, always be aware that the above symptoms may be due to a variety of other causes, so it’s always best to see your vet if you notice any of them.
How to help a dog with arthritis
Most vets will suggest managing arthritis in dogs with multiple therapies as this is likely to deliver the most effective results. Established treatments include:
- Weight management – keeping your dog’s weight within the approved range for its breed is extremely important for both preventing and reducing the effects of arthritis
- Modifications to exercise – even if your dog has arthritis, it still needs to exercise daily to keep the joints mobile. Swap out more active forms of exercise for gentle walks. Your vet can advise more on this
- Dietary management – ensure that your dog is getting high-quality nutritious food in quantities appropriate for their age, size and breed. Your vet may also prescribe a ‘joint diet’ that is designed to reduce pain and inflammation and improve mobility. The vet may also recommend dog supplements which include Glucosamine and Chondroitin such as ZamiPet Joint Protect
- Prescription medication – your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to reduce inflammation and manage pain
- Injections - your vet may prescribe a series of weekly injections, over four weeks, to help reduce the pain and inflammation in your dog’s joints. This injectable medication may also help support the cells that lay down cartilage
- Surgery – this will very much depend on your dog’s condition and can include joint replacement or joint fusion surgery
- Modifying the environment – you may want to consider modifying certain aspects of your home and your dog’s environment to account for the changes in their mobility. This could include providing an orthopaedic bed to give extra support and comfort. Other modifications could include ramps, dog gates and mats/rugs covering floorboards or regular nail clipping to reduce the chances of slipping.
If you need any further advice on how to manage your dog’s symptoms, consult your vet.
Staying on top of your dog’s condition
The best way to keep your dog comfortable and manage its arthritis is to follow your vet’s advice and take your dog for regular check-ups. During the appointment, your vet will be able to assess the success of any treatment and modify it if necessary.
Arthritis is not just a condition that affects old dogs, it’s common in dogs of all ages. However, it is possible to keep it under control and help your dog stay free from pain and mobile for many years, so that they enjoy a good quality of life for longer.
The information in this article was checked by ZamiPet Veterinarian and General Manager Dr Andrew McKay, BVSc, University of Melbourne, 2000. Vet Registration No: V3985
Disclaimer: This information is general advice only. Before starting any treatment or supplement with your pet, please consult your vet first for the best approach to getting your pet back to their best health.