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Canine Arthritis & Arthritis Management: What you need to Know

Updated: Mar 28, 2022

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is the end stage of degenerative joint disease this is where the cartilage that sits at the ends of the bone starts to wear away leading to exposed bone.

There is cartilage at each joint in our dogs body attached to the ends of the bones that make up that joint. For example in the hip joint this is the pelvis and the femur. The cartilage allows the bones to slide past each other which is how we get the movement of the joint. The cartilage does not have any nerves so can't feel any pain.

However over time and with more use this cartilage wears away leading to parts of the underlying bone to come through. Unlike cartilage bone does have nerves and can feel pain and is not smooth so doesn't glide easily. This means that there is rubbing of the bones leading to pain and in more severe cases new bone growth to prevent this movement. This is why dogs with arthritis have a reduced moment in their joints and experience pain when they move.

What are the signs of arthritis in dogs?

The most common signs we see in canine arthritis are a slowing down which is often mistaken for a sign of old age but is most commonly associated with canine arthritis.

Another common sign of arthritis in our dogs is a reluctance to go for walks, wanting shorter walks or appearing stiff or limping after or during a walk.

If you have noticed any of theses signs in your dog please book an appointment with your vet to get them a check up if you haven’t already.

Some signs and symptoms you might see that are linked to pain in our dogs include: changes in behavior, changes in appetite and reluctance to be touched or be part of the family as they usually would.

What age is arthritis in dogs usually seen?

Arthritis affects 1 in 5 dogs and is seen more commonly as your dog ages. The breed of dog you own and their weight can also affect their likelihood of developing arthritis.

What treatments are there?

There are a number of different treatments for arthritis in dogs from pain medications prescribed by your vet to physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and supplements.

Pain medications and medications given to aid healing and prevent further damage can only be prescribed by your vet but they broadly come in 2 forms: a tablet or liquid you give at home each day or in an injectable form such as Librella.

Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy treatment help to improve your dog's functional movement by increaseing their joint movement and reducing pain. Modalities that may be used include laser to reduce joint deterioration, massage to reduce muscle tension and pain, swimming or walking on an underwater treadmill to encourage joint range of movement without any weight bearing which can cause pain, hydrotherapy also helps along with rehabilitative exercises to build muscle strength and mass helping to support your dogs joints.

Supplements that have been suggested to help with the management of arthritis are:

  1. Fish oils such as salmon oils

  2. Green-lipped mussels

  3. Curcuminoids

  4. Glucosamine and chorodontin

When you visit your vet for a diagnosis you can discuss all options for canine arthritis management with them. And be sure to consult them before making any changes to the supplements you feed to ensure they don’t interact with any other medications etc.

How can I prevent it? And What changes can I make at home?

A few simple changes you can make at home are:

  1. Covering all slippy floors with rugs or carpet

  2. Using ramps on and off of furniture and in and out of the car to prevent jumping

  3. Raise food and water bowls for larger dogs

  4. Ensure they have a comfy orthopedic bed

  5. Reducing exercise especially high impact exercises

So if canine arthritis is so common how can we help prevent the development of arthritis in our dogs or slow it’s onset?

We can help our dogs by following the steps above throughout their whole lives. We can also reduce the risk of arthritis by not using ball throwers. Ball throwers are so common but come with so much risk the repetitive throwing of a ball and your dogs chasing and retrieving can over time lead to them becoming more likely to develop arthritis. Just like if we over exercise our puppies too young they will have had more stress to their joints and therefore they will likely deteriorate quicker just like we see in top human athletes who have loaded their joints heavily through their training.

For more information on how to manage arthritis head to for an in-depth look at arthritis in dogs and how you can help your dog.

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