Arthritis in dogs

Cute border collie dog playing with ball at sunset

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They may have four legs and one (wagging) tail, but our canine companions aren’t all that different from us humans. Arthritis can affect dogs of all ages and all walks of life – from sustaining an injury to aging gracefully. We held a Q&A with our resident pet vet to give you the 411 on how to spot a dog in pain, appropriate pain relief for dogs, and dog arthritis supplements such as YuMove.

Understanding arthritis

Can dogs get arthritis?

Yes. In layman’s terms, ‘arthritis’ means ‘inflammation of the joint’. Arthritis is a very painful, progressive condition and often needs some kind of intervention. It’s important to swat up on joint care for dogs and – despite how helpful Noel Fitzpatrick’s shows may seem – seek professional vet advice if you are concerned that your dog is in pain.

Which breeds of dog does arthritis affect the most?

Although arthritis is most commonly seen in senior dogs, it can occur in dogs of all ages. This could be down to developmental problems, such as hip dysplasia in dogs; trauma, such as from a torn knee (cruciate) ligament; and Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease commonly seen in small breed dogs, such as Pugs and West Highland Terriers.

Yellow dog sleeping

Is there anything I can do to prevent my dog from developing arthritis?

Yes. Dogs age quicker than us humans – you know the old saying, 1 human year equates to 7 dog years. Because of this, it’s crucial to take your dog to the vet for an annual health check up. This always includes a full physical examination and usually a booster vaccination, if necessary. Annual check ups also present you an opportunity to ask your vet about anything you may be concerned about. A weight check every 6 months will also help to keep tabs on any increased risk to putting strain on joints later in their life.

How to spot if a dog has arthritis

Will it be obvious if my dog has arthritis?

Not always. The signs of arthritis are usually very subtle in the beginning stages – it’s common to think that your pooch is ‘just getting old’ and not that they could actually be a dog in pain. In fact, it can be tricky to spot signs a dog is in pain, as our furry friends don’t always cry in response. A good analogy that I use in veterinary consultations is to think of an old lady with arthritis in her knees walking down the road. She may not be crying as she walks but she will most definitely be sore. Now compare that to dropping a heavy book on your foot – even the thought of this may be enough to bring tears to your eyes! Both situations are painful but the response to each one differs – i.e. the difference between ‘chronic’ and ‘acute’ pain. As a result, you cannot rely on their cries (or lack of) as a sign your dog is in pain or has arthritis.

What are the common signs of arthritis in dogs?

  • Taking longer to find a comfortable position to lie down
  • Slowing down on walks
  • Being more snappy/moody
  • Limping and/or weakness

How does a vet actually diagnose arthritis?

  • Most importantly, a full physical exam
  • Tests to rule out other causes of symptoms, such as heart and thyroid disease
  • Diagnostic imaging, such as x-rays, CT and MRI scans (which usually requires sedation)
Yellow dog

How to treat a dog with arthritis

What is the first step in treating a dog with arthritis?

The most important starting point is to have a body condition assessment – excessive weight adds pressure to painful joints and fat has been proven to be a source of inflammation. Your vet will be able to advise a weight management plan to help your pooch lose weight. If your pet’s body condition is good, your vet may recommend some pain medication, or just starting off with dog arthritis supplements or a special joint diet.

Are any pain relief medication available?

Yes. Your vet can discuss different types of pain medications used for arthritis in dogs. These will affect different levels of the pain pathways in the body – and a combination of these is often necessary in advanced cases. It is important to discuss your various options with a veterinary professional. Even if you’ve had a dog with arthritis before, it’s important to remember that – like with us humans – pain medication is not ‘one size fits all’.

What kind of natural pain relief for dogs is available?

Remember – these are complementary and do not replace professional veterinary treatment.

How does diet work as a joint aid for dogs?

Dogs in their senior years should be fed an age appropriate food from a suitable dog bowl, as these usually include supplements to aid joint support. Before making any changes, it’s important to discuss your dog’s diet with your pet vet.

Should a dog with arthritis still exercise regularly?

Yes. As arthritis becomes more painful, dogs use their legs with less and less power – think about when they’re jumping for toys, climbing into or out of the car, and getting into their bed. As a result, you may notice that their muscles start to waste and their bones become more prominent. It’s vital to continue with a modified exercise plan to maintain muscle around the joints to support them. Consult your vet and consider reaching out to a veterinary physiotherapist to discuss how best to do this, as home exercises can be dangerous if done incorrectly.

Are there any surgical treatments for dogs with arthritis?

Yes. Your vet may want to consider surgery, such as hip replacements. This is a serious discussion to have with your vet – especially if your dog’s arthritis is age related – as there may be other health risks to take into consideration.

Which arthritis treatment is the most effective?

Using a combination of therapies – pain medication, supplements & rehab – combined with regular contact with your vet is usually the most effective way to manage a dog’s arthritis. However, it’s important to remember that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ treatment when it comes to any canine medical condition.

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