Arthritis is typically associated with older humans, but is also a common ailment seen in middle-aged to older dogs. Arthritis is a condition that causes the joints to become inflamed; the inflammation is accompanied by swelling and pain in the joints.
As the inflammation worsens, it causes stiffness and eventually may lead to immobility. The effects of arthritis in your dog can be painful and it can directly have an effect on their quality of life. Fortunately, there are treatments available that may help to reduce or alleviate the pain and swelling, but it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of arthritis so that treatment can begin as soon as possible.
How to Treat Arthritis
Signs and Symptoms
Arthritis can occur anywhere there is a joint with the most common locations being the hips and legs. Some of the signs and symptoms that your dog may have arthritis include:
- Limping- you may notice your dog limping or favoring one or more of his legs (depending on which joints are arthritic). Limp may worsen when going from laying to standing.
- Difficulty moving- your dog may become reluctant to do things that were previously easy to do. For example, your dog may have difficulties getting in and out of the car or may find it difficult to go up and down stairs that were easy to maneuver.
- Fatigue- you may notice your dog becoming tired more easily. For example, walks may become shorter as well as more painful. Your dog may spend more time resting and/or sleeping.
- Spinal problems- not only can arthritis occur in legs and hips, but it may also occur in various areas of the spine. Changes may include a hunch in the back, lameness of one or both hind legs or a noticeable sore neck.
- Irritability- dogs with arthritis may become irritable. For example, they may snap and/or bite when handled or approached, especially if the handling or petting is in an area that increases their pain.
- Licking, biting & chewing- dogs that are affected with arthritis may begin to lick, bite and/or chew at body areas that are painful. This may become so extreme that the skin becomes inflamed and/or hair loss may occur over the affected areas.
- Muscle atrophy- dogs with arthritis often develop muscle atrophy or the muscle tissue dying off resulting from inactivity and decreased use of their muscles. Dogs with atrophied muscles in their legs may have a leg that looks thinner than their other legs.
Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are various procedures and remedies that may help to ease the pain for your dog, including:
- NSAIDS (non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications) are the most commonly used way to relieve the pain and swelling.
- Nutritional supplements, such as glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM may help to improve your dog’s joint health.
- Your veterinarian may prescribe steroids and anti-inflammatory medications to help decrease the swelling and make movement easier.
- In some cases where conventional and/or alternative methods of management are not effective, your veterinarian may recommend surgical interventions. Depending on the affected joints, surgical options may include total hip replacement, arthrodesis (fusing damaged joints) or removal of the femoral head.
Even with treatment, arthritis can make movements difficult for your dog. To help ease the pain and difficulties in movement, modifications in accommodations and activities may be helpful. For example, food and water dishes should be at a comfortable height and their dog bed should be placed in a warm area that is free from drafts. Using a non-electrical heating pad in the bed may help to relief the aches and pains.
It is important to continue with light activities and play, which can help strengthen their muscles, keep tendons and ligaments flexible and help with circulation. At Northlake Veterinary Hospital we offer at home routine annuals and wellness visits. Call us today at (985) 626-7522!