First and foremost, there is no need to panic, it’s not the end if your beloved furry friend is diagnosed with arthritis.
The first thing you need to know about arthritis is that it is extremely common in pets and it affects almost all pets that walk on four legs. Arthritis is a chronic degenerative disease, so is a long-term condition that needs life-long management. Although arthritis can slowly worsen over time, if well managed, most dogs can live happily for many years after diagnosis.
On the other hand, if you manage to notice your dog’s symptoms at an early stage, it surely helps to manage the condition better, rather than pushing your dog into a more dangerous situation. We will talk more about the symptoms, different stages and the prevention of arthritis further down this discussion.Related Post : How to make dog shoes for summer
What is Arthritis in Dogs?
Arthritis is an inflammatory disease, it is a condition that affects joints and causes them to become swollen and painful. Furthermore, it makes moving around painful and uncomfortable. In simple terms, if your dog has arthritis it means that he/she has inflammation within certain areas and joints in his/her body. It can also affect several joints of the body at the same time.
Same as all Mammals, dogs too have many joints in their bodies such as the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows. The bone surfaces inside these joints are normally covered with a layer of thin and smooth cartilage which acts as a cushion. These joints are also lubricated with synovial fluid that assists them to move freely.
Arthritis makes the cartilage deteriorate and the fluids lubricating the joints loses their ability, which in turn causes friction in the bone surfaces. As a result, the surface of the bones are damaged and sometimes new bones begin to form around the joint. This makes any kind of movement very stiff and painful.
Types of Arthritis
Researchers have identified three types of arthritis. Each type has their respective treatment methods. Having knowledge about them can be of great help if you want to keep your dog out of harm.
The first type of arthritis is called Osteoarthritis. It is basically joint deterioration from any wear and tear that might have happened during day to day situations. This type of arthritis has no known cure till now.
Second type of arthritis is Septic Arthritis, which happens due to bacterial infection. With proper medication and care this type of arthritis can be cured.
Third and final type is called Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis or IMPA for short. It is caused by a ripple effect from weak immune system targeting joints. The cure for this depends on the illness leading to IMPA.
Different Stages of Arthritis
Different stages of Arthritis have different symptoms and different treatments. You can keep an eye open for these symptoms in your dog and take proper measures for them accordingly.
Various experts in the field have divided Arthritis into four different stages:
The symptoms of stage one Arthritis is ligament injury, surgery, or joint injury. It can be treated with joint supplements, weight control and exercise.
Second stage is Inflammation in the joints. This stage has the same treatment method as the stage one Arthritis.
Third stage of Arthritis can be identified by signs of lameness and lack of desire to be active. Low intensity exercises, Arthritis supplements, acupuncture and laser treatment can be used as treatment in this stage.
Fourth stage of Arthritis is an extremely painful experience for dogs. At this stage the dog suffers from extreme lack of mobility and cries when joints are moved. Unfortunately, the treatments for this stage have little effect. A vet usually prescribes stronger drugs and physical therapy. Moreover, when all else fails, you can consider joint surgeries such as fusion (arthrodesis) or replacements which are often only available at specialist veterinary hospitals.
What are the Signs?
There are several signs from which you can determine that your dog is suffering from arthritis. You should keep an eye open for these signs, so that you can take immediate measures before arthritis can develop into a more dangerous stage.
- Your dog may repeatedly lick the affected area.
- The usually mild natured dog suddenly turns aggressive.
- The dog yelps in pain when you touch the affected area.
- Your dog suddenly lags behind on walks.
- The dog shows pain when it tries to get up or down.
- Sudden limping or lameness.
You may notice just one or more than one of these signs together when arthritis in its early stages and they will become more prominent as it progresses.
Be Aware of the Risks
As I have said before, Arthritis can happen to a dog at any point of their lives, but it is also true that older dogs are particularly at risk of having this disease. But there are some factors that can predispose your dog to this condition.
Firstly, some breeds of dog are born with an increased risk of developing arthritis.
If your dog is of large or giant breeds, such as German Shepherd Dogs, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers; you have to keep an eye on them for any early signs of Arthritis.
Secondly, obesity is another factor that increases the risk of arthritis in your dog. Make sure that it gets proper exercise and a balanced diet.
Thirdly, repetitive stress from athletic activities such as agility, flyball, or dock diving. Injuries such as fractures or ligament tears and infections that affect the joints, such as Lyme Disease can also increase the risk of arthritis.
How to Help Your Dog
So, what can you do to help your precious dog once he/she is diagnosed with Arthritis?
Actually, there’s a lot of things you can do that can make a big difference in your dog’s quality of life. You can start by being a little more attentive and bringing some simple changes to you and your dog’s daily life. Trust me, these changes can do wonders!
Firstly, you should take care to manage your dog’s weight. As I have stated before, obesity is a serious problem for dogs. When your dog is overweight, it will put more strain on the joints of its body while moving. This in turn increases the friction between the bones and causes more pain for the dog.
You can walk your dog daily as a form of exercise and regulate the amount of dog treats you give to your dog. If the dog is overweight, then you should give less. Remember, when your dog is overweight, treats should never make up more than 10% of its diet.
Moreover, you can consult your vet to develop a specialized weight management program
Secondly, regulated exercise is especially useful in managing arthritis. Although your dog may find it a painful thing, you have to make sure that he/she gets a daily session of controlled exercise. Many dogs will be more than happy to get more attention from you in the form of exercise. You should also avoid activities such as Frisbee catching, chasing after balls etc. These kinds of activities can place unnecessary pressure on the affected joints.
Thirdly, you have to make sure that your dog has a warm and comfortable place for resting and sleeping. A good orthopedic bed can do wonders to ease the suffering of your dog. These beds can help protect any sore joints.
Three types of medications are widely used in treating arthritis in dogs.
First are the Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs, designed to relieve arthritis pain. This type of medicine lessens pain by decreasing prostaglandins. This in turn ensures ease of movements, as well as enabling them to exercise. But, NSAIDs are not without side effects, prolonged use of these medicines may cause liver or kidney damage. So, it would be wise to use them with a veterinarian’s prescription.
Second type of medications are the cartilage protectors. These medicines help to reduce cartilage damage and degeneration. They are also useful in promoting joint structures and reducing inflammation. The use of this medicine also requires a veterinarian’s prescription.
The third type are the joint supplements. They contain chondroitin and glucosamine which are naturally produced in all warm-blooded animals. The use of these supplements are useful in reducing stiffness and pain in dogs with arthritis. Researchers have found that if dogs receive joint supplements in their youth and during their whole life, it can slow down the development of arthritis. This type of medicine is also the safest of the three.
To sum up, have the strength to face the reality of Arthritis. It is only a disease and it can be treated. Proper medication and sensible management can make the experience nearly painless for your dog.
Although, it may bring some changes to the life of your precious friend but with your care and concern he/she can live a longer and much happier life.