As your dog ages, he or she is subject to many of the same ailments you are. If they live long enough they are likely to suffer from arthritis, a crippling and painful condition when it occurs in people. It is no less painful in dogs.
Because of better food and health care our canine friends are living to be senior citizens in dog years. When you observe the signs indicating the onset of arthritis, there are steps you can take to help alleviate their pain and perhaps extend their life. At the very least you can improve the quality of their life.
First, know what to look for. Symptoms of arthritis in your pet include limping, or otherwise favoring a limb. They might have difficulty sitting or standing and spend more time than usual sleeping.
They won't be as active as they once were and will likely put on weight. You may even observe a change in personality and demeanor.
One in five suffer from arthritis
According to the Arthritis Foundation, one in every five adult dogs in the U.S. suffers from arthritis, making it one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat. When you observe arthritis symptoms in your pet that last for two weeks or more, the Foundation suggests taking your dog to veterinarian for an arthritis evaluation.Â
The evaluation will likely involve a physical exam and possibly x-rays. The best thing to do for your dog in managing arthritis is to get a diagnosis and start a treatment plan as soon as possible. Treating canine arthritis is somewhat similar to treating osteoarthritis in humans.
Therapies may include a healthy diet and exercise to help maintain a proper weight. Just as in people, when a dog is carrying too much weight it places unhealthy stress on joints. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) canine arthritis can also occur as a result of a joint infection, dislocation, trauma or an inherited condition, such as hip dysplasia.Â
Exercise is an excellent treatment for dogs with arthritis. In the video accompanying this article, a veterinarian demonstrates effective exercises.
Work with your vet to find a drug treatment that helps alleviate the pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are the most common form of pharmaceutical treatment for arthritis in dogs. Over-the-counter pet treatments, such as pills or food containing either glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate or Omega fatty acids, are sometimes recommended. Both have been shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis in dogs.
Dr. Lorie Houston DVM, who writes and blogs extensively on pet-related issues, says NSAIDS commonly prescribed for dogs incude Rimadyl, Estogesic, Deramaxx and Metacam. Non-NSAID medications, she says, include tramadol, buprenorphine, Fentanyl and gabapentin.Â
Stem cell therapy
She also says stem cell therapy is an emerging treatment option for joint problems in dogs. Because it's a relatively new treatment option you should ask your vet if it is available in your area.
Dr. Marty Becker, DVM, a long-time contributor to ABC's "Good Morning America" and other media outlets, says pet owners should refrain from giving their dogs aspirin or other medication made for humans. He notes that veterinarians advocated aspirin use for dogs in the past, but that it's no longer accepted practice.Â
"Recent peer-reviewed studies have linked the use of aspirin in dogs to gastric ulcers," he writes.
Becker notes that one of the biggest contributors to arthritis in dogs is obesity. It's been a subject vets have been reluctant to bring up with pet owners in the past, he says, because it can be sensitive. But increasingly, he says, obesity is being recognized as a prime contributor to the painful condition.
The Arthritis Foundation suggests dog owners should pay more attention to what their pet eats. Dog owners, the Foundation says, could benefit from the same advice.
"Read the food labels for each of you to make sure that every bite is giving you both good energy and nutrition," the Foundation says on its website. "Limit your servings and don't cheat by eating between meals or slipping Fido extra snacks."