Arthritis in Dogs

How the Disease Develops

Arthritis is a common disease in geriatric dogs. Also referred to as DJD or
degenerative joint disease, the condition causes joint discomfort and results in
deterioration of the surrounding cartilage.

Although the ailment is often diagnosed in older dogs, its cause is not easy to
establish.

Most veterinarians believe the disease results from stress on the joints over time
although it can develop in connection with other conditions, such as hip dysplasia,
too.

Hip Dysplasia can Lead to Arthritis

Hip dysplasia itself occurs when the hip joints in a dog are malformed or do not develop as they should. Therefore, as time progresses, the hip joints cannot function normally. This skeletal malformation is frequently seen in larger dog breeds with a genetic predisposition to the disease, such as the Saint Bernard, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and Great Dane. Smaller dogs can also be affected by hip dysplasia too; however, they are less likely to show symptomology.

Symptoms Resulting from Hip Dysplasia

Usually, the disease begins when the dog is young or after he turns four months old. However, the condition, as noted, can also lead to arthritis or osteoarthritis as well. The symptoms that are associated with the disease are therefore based on the severity of the condition. In the early stages, joint looseness is often observed while later symptoms include degeneration of the joints and arthritis - all which causes the dog to have trouble getting up or pursuing a high level of activity. Lameness, decreased range of motion, and loss of muscle are also signs of dysplasia too.

Getting your Dog Checked

If your veterinarian suspects dysplasia or arthritis, he will perform a complete work-up, including blood count, urinalysis, and blood composition profile. In combination with the work-up, he will need a history of any accidents or injuries that may have led to your pet's condition. Joint inflammation can be confirmed in your dog's blood count while X-rays can determine if your dog has dysplasia or another degenerative illness.

Arthritic Symptoms

At the first signs of arthritis, dog owners usually find that their dog starts to slow or shows evidence of being in pain when the animal moves its shoulders or knees. In addition to these primary signs, dogs may exhibit symptomology that includes a lack of appetite, limping, swelling of the joints, sluggishness or fever.

Exercises to Reduce Arthritic Pain

If you believe your dog has arthritis, you'll need to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Should your dog be found to be arthritic, then the doctor will often prescribe medication to manage the pain and disease. In order to help your pet yourself, you can alleviate the pain by involving your dog in low-impact forms of exercise. In particular, older dogs with arthritis can benefit from water sport exercises, such as dog paddling or swimming. If your dog likes to retrieve toys, you can provide him with exercise and a way to reduce arthritic pain by incorporating water retrieval in his play schedule a couple times a week.

Other Ways to Alleviate Pain - Make Sure you Place your Dog's Bed Away from Drafty Areas

You also have to think about where you place your dog's bed. In order to avoid joint pain and stiffness, make sure your dog's sleeping area is in a warm place. You may think about buying an orthopedic bed to supply additional comfort. The memory foam used by many manufacturers is designed to reduce the joint pain and pressure caused by arthritis, thereby making it more comfortable for your dog to sleep.

Managing the Pain with Medication or Supplements

Vets generally recommend that dogs take prescription medications in the form of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, also referred to as NSAIDs. However, taking NSAIDs over an extended period of time can also increase the risk for kidney or liver damage. Therefore, joint supplementation is often recommended to counteract any possible side effects. Natural joint supplements are available in liquid formulations or soft and chewable tablets.