Getting older is no walk in the park. Not just for humans but for our beloved canine companions too. When joint aches and pain prevents your dog from enjoying a good walk in the park, there’s likely one ailment to blame.
P.S. This article was reviewed by our expert veterinarian, Chris Vanderhoof (DMV).
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that affects the joints, causing pain, stiffness, and discomfort. Dogs with arthritis will experience damage to the cartilage in their joints, leading the bones in the joints to rub against each other.
It’s as painful as it sounds. And over time, this repeated rubbing of bone on bone can cause more bone tissue to form around the joints, making the joints even stiffer and movement more difficult.
The disease is progressive, which means that it gets worse over time. It helps to catch the signs of the disease early and begin appropriate management as soon as possible. Regular checkups with a vet can help pick up the signs early.
Signs and symptoms of arthritis in dogs
Arthritis can be difficult to spot in its early stages. Usually, the symptoms only become apparent when the disease has already progressed quite far and the joint has already deteriorated significantly.
The following are indicators that joint disease may be present:
- Stiffness and difficulty getting up;
- Reluctance to run and jump and play;
- Limping after exercise;
- Walking slower or not managing long distances;
- Difficulty with stairs;
- Weight gain;
- Pain when touched or petted;
- Difficulty raising a leg or squatting to go to the toilet.
If you spot these signs, it’s a good idea to get your dog seen by a vet. Your vet may require x-rays to rule out other conditions to determine the extent of the joint deterioration.
Taking care of a dog with arthritis
If your dog has arthritis, you will need to make some minor adjustments around your home to make life a little easier and more comfortable for your dog.
Make sure your dog has a soft and supportive bed to lay on by buying the best orthopedic dog bed you can afford. The heat helps ease joint pain, so perhaps consider purchasing a heating pad for animals. Heating pads for humans are unsuitable for animals as these can burn your dog’s skin.
Make life easier for your dog with ramps and stairs to ensure they can still access all their favorite spots without impacting their joints too much.
Raised food and water bowls are another way to make life easier for your dog with arthritis.
If you have tiled or wooden floors or any flooring that is quite slippery, putting non-slip rugs down can help your dog. Rugs make it easier to get up and lie down and prevent slipping and falling.
The Petcube interactive pet camera lets you watch what your doggo is doing while you are away, so this way you can know what struggles at home they are experiencing and then treat those as soon as possible.
Treatment for arthritis in dogs
If your vet diagnoses arthritis, one of the first things you may be asked to do is help your dog to lose weight. Any additional weight will likely put unnecessary strain on already aching joints and possibly even speed up cartilage breakdown.
Your vet can assist you to determine a healthy goal weight, what foods to provide, how much to feed your dog, and when. Some prescription foods help to manage weight and give support to joints.
Exercise and physical therapy
Regular, low-impact exercise is key to keeping joints healthy. Short walks (10 to 15 minutes) three to four times a day are an excellent place to start. Avoid high-impact activities that will increase joint stress and pain, like running, jumping, and chasing balls.
Physical therapy with a trained professional can include massage and stretching to ease stiffness, range of motion exercises, and underwater treadmills.
Management of pain and inflammation using anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can seem ideal in managing your dog’s symptoms. Unfortunately, these drugs can cause side effects, particularly with long-term use.
Note from Dr. Vanderhoof: Side effects are always a concern and require monitoring, but a majority of dogs tolerate NSAIDs well.
Anti-inflammatories help manage short-term periods of pain and inflammation well with low risk of side effects. For long-term use, working along side a veterinarian is important to help monitor for efficacy and safety and reduce the risk of long-term side effects.
Depending on your dog’s particular needs, your vet may recommend other therapies. Things like acupuncture and cold laser can be great when combined with other treatments.
In some severe cases, surgery may be the best treatment option. During surgery, damaged tissue may be removed from the joint, or the joint may be replaced altogether.
Natural remedies for arthritis in dogs
Joint supplements are often prescribed alongside other treatments to support your dog’s joints. These supplements improve joint function, reduce inflammation, and slow the progression of joint deterioration.
Common supplements include glucosamine, chondroitin, and green-lipped mussel (GLM). GLM is a powerful supplement for arthritis as it contains Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants and is a potent anti-inflammatory.
Supplements like these are safe for long-term use and are often prescribed very early on in the treatment of arthritis in dogs.
Chat to your vet about changing to dog food formulated specifically for joint health. Many top brands have options that include ingredients and supplements to help your dog.
While many supplements are safe and well-tolerated, side effects are always possible, so consult your vet before adding one to your dog's diet.
How Online Vet and Emergency Fund can be useful
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and since our pets become our children, Online Vet by Petcube is the village you didn’t know you needed. For just $20 a month, you have access to your own team of trained veterinarians who are on hand to offer you guidance and answer your questions 24/7.
Now you don’t need to hightail it to the vet whenever you’re concerned. Simply send a photo or video to Online Vet and get advice in real-time. This will reduce unnecessary vet visits, saving you money and your pet the trauma.
If the news isn’t good and your pet needs emergency care, having an emergency fund can be a literal lifesaver. You can add an emergency fund for just $9 a month. The fund will pay up to $3000 annually for emergency vet treatment.
Let’s face it, it’s heartbreaking enough to see your best buddy unwell, but to find you aren’t financially able to afford the treatment your pet needs is now a thing of the past.
Read more: What To Expect From An Online Vet Visit
What are the best natural remedies for arthritis in dogs?
The best home remedy for arthritis in dogs is getting regular low-impact exercise and maintaining weight control. Chat to your vet about the best dog food for arthritis to help support your dog’s body.
How long can a dog live with arthritis?
Arthritis is a long-term condition that must be continually managed. While the disease progresses over time, a dog can live for many years after diagnosis with the proper treatment.
What is the best orthopedic dog bed for arthritis?
The best dog bed for arthritis is one that is soft, so it doesn’t put too much pressure on aching joints and is supportive. Memory foam is one of the more popular materials. A handy feature would be a washable cover.
Dog massage for arthritis - does it help?
The benefits of dog massage for arthritis are many. Not only does a massage stimulate circulation to the muscles which support the joints, but it also helps improve range of motion and relieve stiffness.
Are wagons useful for dogs with arthritis?
Regular short walks are great for maintaining mobility. Only once mobility is significantly impaired can a wagon be a useful tool. Taking your dog out in a wagon can help your pet enjoy fun adventures and remain stimulated even though getting about is that much harder.
What is the best dog food for arthritis?
Many top commercial dog food brands have a range specially formulated for dogs with arthritis. These options usually include supplements like glucosamine and Omega-3 fatty acids that help manage pain and inflammation.
In addition, these foods can be used to manage your dog’s weight. An overweight dog is more prone to developing arthritis and the additional weight contributes to joint degeneration.
How to prevent arthritis is dogs?
There is no one way to prevent arthritis but there are things you can do to support your dog’s joints. Ensuring that your puppy is active and enjoys a balanced diet will create strong bones and muscles from an early age. This will serve your pup well when they get older.
As your dog grows, maintain an active lifestyle and a healthy weight to minimize joint stress. Getting your dog used to swimming at a young age can come in handy later, as it’s an exercise that’s easy on the joints.
Make sure to take your dog for regular checkups with a vet to spot signs of arthritis early. The earlier you begin treatment the better the prognosis for your dog.
Some dog breeds, particularly larger ones, are predisposed to developing arthritis. Make sure that you chat with your vet about an appropriate supplement for your dog.