ARTHRITIS IN DOGS
EcoBalance Joint Care for Dogs
Understanding Arthritis in Dogs
Arthritis is a common ailment in dogs of all sizes, ages, and breeds. It’s true that some pups are genetically predisposed to developing arthritis — most arthritis in dogs is the result of inherited diseases like hip dysplasia — but arthritis can appear in practically any dog and can have a variety of causes outside of a dog’s lineage. Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis; it is possible to mitigate symptoms and delay the disease from developing by paying close attention to your dog’s behavior, diet, and exercise routines.
Here’s what you should know about dog arthritis:
Causes of Arthritis
The most common type of arthritis in dogs is what’s known as degenerative joint disease (or osteoarthritis). According to WebMD, osteoarthritis will affect one out of every five dogs. Degenerative joint disease includes most of the common arthritis conditions that afflict dogs; joint trauma, joint infections, patella luxation, ruptured ligaments and hip dysplasia can all cause degenerative joint disease.
In degenerative arthritis, joints form bone spurs that grate against one another when the limb is used. There is no one cause for these bone spurs. In some dogs it’s genetics. In some it’s injury or illness. And in others it’s just plain bad luck. Degenerative joint disease can strike any dog at any time, though it is most common in large purebred dogs approaching their twilight years.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Arthritis symptoms start small but get worse as the disease degrades the joint. Often the earliest sign of degenerative bone disease in your dog is a noticeable slowdown in how he moves; a dog that no longer seems to run at full sprint could be experiencing the early stages of arthritis. If your dog is having trouble jumping onto the bed or couch, his joints might be bothering him. Every specific arthritis case is a bit different, but dogs generally show stiffness and signs of joint pain. Behavior shifts are also possible — your dog may become grouchy in the mornings and after naps when joint pain is most prevalent.
As with any medical condition, the best next step after noticing a change in your dog’s patterns or behavior is a quick trip to the vet. Degenerative joint disease is usually verified via X-ray; your veterinarian can let you know for sure if your dog is suffering from arthritis and can give you an idea of how far along the disease has progressed. The vet can also look for possible causes outside of the norm.
Arthritis in dogs, just like arthritis in humans, has no cure. There is no way to repair the damage done to the joints once degenerative joint disease begins. However, there are treatment options available that can dramatically improve your dog’s quality of life and help him to manage the pain. Regular (but gentle) physical activity is encouraged to keep the joints moving, and dogs with weight problems will see great relief in shedding a few extra pounds. Swimming is an excellent activity for pups with arthritis, as it helps strengthen the muscles without putting undue stress on the joints.
As far as medicine and treatment go, many dog owners find that the best treatment is using natural supplements that help reduce inflammation and help the dog manage pain. (Our product EcoBalance Joint Care Liquid Concentrate for Dogs was made just for these reasons.)
Surgery is also an option for dogs with extreme cases of arthritis. Vets can either fuse the affected joints to prevent further pain, or replace the bone with artificial joints that leave the dog functional and happy after a brief recovery period. Developing arthritis doesn’t mean your dog will have to stop living his life or doing the fun things he loves to do.
Prevention and Awareness
An unfortunate truth about arthritis in dogs is that there is no surefire way to prevent it from developing. Some dogs are going to get degenerative joint disease regardless of their diets, general health, or genetics. You can keep arthritis at bay, though, by providing your dog with a healthy and active life. Overweight dogs are far more likely to develop arthritis than those kept at the right weight for their breed, and dogs who exercise regularly will have stronger muscles that can handle intense activity with a lower risk of injury. Natural supplements with glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids have also been linked to better joint health. Don’t skimp on dog food; give your pup high-quality food with no by-products or fillers.
It’s also important to be aware of your dog’s lineage. If you purchased your pup at a breeder, the breeder should be able to inform you about any health problems in other dogs from the line. Degenerative joint disease is genetic in most cases, which means arthritis in other dogs from your pup’s litter or family is a good indicator of his risk level. If you grabbed a mutt from a shelter or a rescue, you can get a vague idea of his chances of facing arthritis from his size and the common ailments of his identifiable breeds.
Overall, arthritis is a challenging and frustrating disease that will force a big change in behavior for both you and your dog. However, if you catch it early and respond with appropriate treatment, you’ll find it to be quite manageable. Arthritis isn’t the end of fun activities for your dog — just a condition that needs to be considered when making plans. With a positive attitude and the right treatment plan, you and your pup will still have plenty of good times ahead.