Emma’s beloved four-legged fur buddy, Charlie, was a playful, friendly, and gentle canine who loved to explore the outdoors. Being true to his Golden breed, he enjoyed a good chase across the park, jumping for joy at the sight of curious spectators.
One day, she noticed that something was clearly off with her four-legged fur ball. He was not as excited to accompany her for a morning run through the woods. Nor was he willing to play the otherwise exciting game of ‘throw-and-fetch.’
Charlie seemed to limp about in constant pain and was in low spirits. Emma tried cheering him up with light petting, to which he yelped and even snapped (especially as her hands caressed his joints). Concerned for her beloved pet, she rushed him to a veterinarian who diagnosed Charlie with the degenerative condition of osteoarthritis (OA).
Is your dog also showing signs similar to Charlie’s? Arthritis in dogs may be a serious problem, but you can prevent it from affecting your pet’s quality of life. This article discusses aspects of this joint disease in detail.
Old Age Isn’t Always the Cause
Immediately after the diagnosis, Emma suspected that Charlie’s age (seven years) was responsible for the condition. Her speculations were valid because osteoarthritis incidences are indeed higher in aging dogs (particularly those belonging to the sporting breeds).
However, it is not the sole factor contributing to this painful degenerative issue, as 20% of dogs (out of 500 used for a study) over the age of one were suffering from arthritis. They showcased common symptoms like stiff gait, lameness, irritability, licking of painful areas, fatigue, and groaning or whining on touching the affected areas.
Besides functional wear-and-tear of joints due to age, the Blue Cross also recognizes the following to be causes of canine arthritis –
- Joint under-development caused due to excessive or too little exercise during the puppy phase
- A condition called hip dysplasia as a result of poor breeding practices
- Ligament damage or other injuries that affects the joints
- Genetics in some cases
An Ounce of Prevention
Most animal doctors agree that canine arthritis (much like any other disease) is best prevented than treated. But, age-related arthritis may be more challenging to avoid especially if genetics are involved. You, as a pet parent, can delay the onset of the disease and even reduce the severity of symptoms through certain preventive measures.
A Nutritional Diet from the Get-Go is a Must
Dogs benefit the most through slow but steady development rates of their musculoskeletal system. A nutritionally sound diet from puppyhood will ensure the fur baby’s body is properly developed and equipped to handle daily wear and tear.
According to Dr Elizabeth Knabe of Marshfield’s Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic, some pet owners feed their canines too rich a diet. This leads to rapid weight gain, something which the fragile bones are not able to handle.
It is best to feed your pup food exclusively designed to meet their custom nutritional requirements. Anything more or less may invite orthopedic problems later in life.
Exercising the Right Way
It is not a newfound fact that dogs, especially active breeds like Labradors and Golden Retrievers, need regular exercise in the outdoors. However, helping them exercise the right way is key to ensuring proper bone development.
For instance – solo running and jumping on rock-hard surfaces may adversely impact bone growth. Dr Elizabeth suggests having two puppies play together as they’re likely to get tired at the same time, thereby taking breaks between play sessions.
Cherry Hill Animal Hospital’s Dr Jessica Ennis suggests introducing your dog to swimming as a pup because this activity goes easy on the joints. Some physical therapy sessions for senior dogs with arthritis involve swimming which gets ruled out in cases where the dog has no early familiarization with the activity.
Maintaining a Lean and Trim Physique
According to Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2019 State of Pet Health Report, obesity and osteoarthritis in dogs are directly linked. In at least 52% of cases, the dogs were also overweight. This is one of the main reasons why OA has been on the rise over the past decade.
Vets believe that extra body weight puts unnecessary strain on a dog’s joints, leading to premature wear and tear. Avoiding obesity through a nutritional diet and regular play sessions will not only keep arthritis at bay but also reduce symptoms severity in dogs already diagnosed with the condition.
Effective Disease Management
The Arthritis Foundation shares multiple stories of aging and young dogs diagnosed with osteoarthritis and their unique journey to recovery. One thing that remains common in these stories is that the owners used a combination of supplemental and physical therapy treatment options to improve their pet’s quality of life.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs are recommended for dogs experiencing severe joint pain, swelling in the affected areas, and stiffness. NSAIDs like Galliprant for dogs can be used for arthritis at any stage, and they directly target the source of inflammation and pain.
The strength of the tablets may vary from 20 mg to 100 mg, prescribed based on the pet’s disease severity. Some medications may cause side effects like digestive issues, liver and kidney damage, etc. The telltale signs of NSAID side effects include loss of appetite, skin redness, diarrhea, and mood changes.
According to PetRx, good-quality NSAIDs reduce pain and swelling without impacting the dog’s liver or kidney health. This is when you know it’s safe to administer them for prolonged periods.
Earlier, we talked about regular exercise as a preventive measure for canine arthritis. Though dogs with arthritis also need exercise, there must be certain activity modifications. For instance – focus on exercises that reduce mass or weight force on the joints. One good activity would be an underwater treadmill (where your pet’s legs are partially submerged in water).
This helps because water’s buoyancy reduces the amount of weight acting on the dog’s joints. Swimming is also a great activity to support your doggo’s recovery journey. Another modification would be controlled play, be it the park, the roads, or the home.
Try to discourage your dog from abnormal and abrupt movements like high-impact jumping, fast running, and sudden turning or twisting. You can train them using treats and rewards or simply have them play with a smaller, weaker dog (which would naturally force them to be gentle and less aggressive).
Other activities that are good for dogs with arthritis include:
- Leash walks on different terrain
- Outings to the nearby store, pet-friendly restaurant, etc.
- Light dances at home with mild music
Happy Joints, Happy Canines!
Businesswire reported that the worldwide canine arthritis treatment market reported a CAGR of 5% between 2019 and 2023. The greatest market share was held by Americans, as more pet owners were willing to walk the extra mile to help their canine companions recover.
Do not be discouraged, as arthritis is not a life imprisonment sentence for your pet’s joy and freedom. Just keep them from taking part in activities like Frisbee throw, flyball, and intense runs or jogs, feed them proper medications, and take them for regular vet check-ups.
Early diagnosis and disease management can slow its progression and allow your pet to enjoy a healthy and happy life.