If your dog can barely get off his bed without a whimper and a stumble, arthritis may be to blame.
Arthritis develops in dogs for many of the same reasons as with people who suffer from the condition. Excess weight is one of the top contributing factors, as the weight puts stress on muscle, tissue and joints in the spine as well as shoulders, hips and limbs. Acute injuries can also cause arthritis; for example, a dog may develop arthritis in a long-ago sprained leg. A tumor or a systemic disease can also cause arthritis. Working dogs or agility dogs may be more likely to develop arthritis as they age due to overuse.
Another common cause of arthritis is poor nutrition over the dog’s lifetime. The lack of a well-balanced diet with the proper amount of nutrients can cause the musculoskeletal system to weaken. Poor diet also contributes to inflammation.
It’s terrible to see your dog in pain, but there are many things you can do to prevent arthritis or manage the symptoms of the condition.
Dog Arthritis Symptoms
One of the most obvious signs that your dog is developing a joint condition such as arthritis is limping, or favoring one leg or side of the body. This limp is often worse in the morning when the dog is stiff from sleeping. Another tell-tale sign is refusing to get up to play or go on a walk; this typically indicates that the animal is actively in pain, and that movement makes it worse.
Dog arthritis symptoms may also include irritability, snapping or growling. A dog in pain may be restless at night, as they are unable to get into a comfortable position, or may end up sleeping excessive amounts. Dogs with arthritis may hold their body in a strange position—such as a funny head tilt or standing in a weird way due to a very stiff back. The affected limb may experience visible muscle atrophy, and your dog may chew or lick at the sore joint itself.
Nutramax Cosequin Maximum Strength (DS) Plus MSM is a joint health supplement for dogs containing glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and MSM. These ingredients maintain joint functioning, support cartilage production, and protect cartilage from breakdown. This supplement can be given every day to reduce symptoms of arthritis. It can be given every other day to maintain results in arthritic dogs or support healthy joint functioning in dogs without symptoms.
VetriScience GlycoFlex Stage III Ultimate Strength Joint Support Bite-Sized Dog Chews offer high levels of glucosamine, MSM and perna canaliculus (green-lipped mussels) for superior joint care. It is suggested for active and competitive dogs to maintain top form, but can also provide support for dogs who show signs of aging and discomfort, as well as those with limited mobility after orthopedic surgery. These bite-size soft chews are clinically proven to increase hind leg strength in dogs by up to 41% in 4 weeks.
Natural Balance L.I.T. Limited Ingredient Treats Jumpin’ Stix are grain-free treats perfect for arthritic dogs with food sensitivities. These treats are made with real venison and are formulated with glucosamine and chondroitin to support healthy hips and joints.
Zuke’s Hip Action Peanut Butter Formula Dog Treats help maintain hip and joint function with the natural goodness of glucosamine, chondroitin and whole food antioxidants. These treats also contain eggshell membrane, which is loaded with natural nutrients for added joint support.
Lifestyle Changes to Ease the Symptoms
“There are many lifestyle modifications that owners can make for their pets to reduce arthritis symptoms—or prevent it in the first place,” says Dr. Laurie Coger, a veterinarian at Healthy Dog Workshop.
Weight control is a huge factor, as excess weight puts tremendous pressure on a dog’s joints. To keep your pet’s weight down, try to keep them active. Staying active is also beneficial for older dogs. “It’s important to keep senior dogs moving, as they will lose flexibility and muscle tone quickly if idle,” says Dr. Coger. “Exercise doesn’t have to be running a marathon—just walking and playing is fine.”
On a similar note, Dr. Coger says it’s very important to manage your dog’s nutrition carefully. Start at-risk dogs on joint supplementation as soon as possible to minimize inflammation. Dr. Coger recommends giving your dog these supplements once they become 1 year old. One way to reduce inflammation is to minimize fillers like corn, soy or wheat in a dog’s diet. “Dogs need protein—they do not have any nutritional need for carbohydrates,” she says. A great diet can reduce the likelihood of, or even prevent, arthritis from developing in the first place.
Chiropractic care is another great option for at-risk dogs. “Keeping the body in balance can slow the progression of the disease,” says Dr. Coger. Once a dog has developed arthritis, she recommends physical therapy, including underwater treadmill running, as well as therapeutic exercises prescribed by a veterinarian. Dr. Coger also recommends low-level laser therapy, which can decrease inflammation, speed healing and build muscle strength.