Recognizing Arthritis in Dogs

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Recognizing Arthritis in Dogs

Like humans, dogs are frequently affected with arthritis and can be quite painful as a result. Arthritis is a disease that can affect any joint causing pain and discomfort. Joints most commonly affected in dogs include hips, elbow, shoulder, knees, wrist, ankle, and backbone.

Causes of Canine Arthritis
Arthritis results from damage to the cartilage within the joint. This occurs because of wear and tear on the joint from aging, congenital abnormalities, obesity and injuries.

In a normal joint, the cartilage acts as a "shock absorber" providing a cushion between the bones which form the joint. When the cartilage is no longer there, or becomes damaged, to act as a "shock absorber", the bones within the joint become damaged.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
Dogs with arthritis experience pain resulting due to the damage within the joint. Symptoms experienced are a direct result of the pain and may be subtle, especially in the early stages. Common symptoms are:

  • Limping or abnormal gait
  • Reluctance or difficulty rising
  • Reluctance to use the stairs or jump onto furniture or into the car
  • Stiffness
  • Irritability, withdrawal or aggression
  • Pain when being handled
  • Licking or chewing at the painful joint

Diagnosing Arthritis in a Dog
A physical examination and radiographs (x-rays) which demonstrate changes within the joint is the most common means of diagnosing canine arthritis.

Caring for Your Arthritic Dog
Your arthritic dog needs special care and attention. Arthritis causes pain which leads to subtle and sometimes obvious symptoms of arthritis. Once your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis, you and your veterinarian will be able to work out a plan of action to help keep your dog comfortable and free of pain. The plan would likely include both mediation and exercise modifications. There are several things you can do at home to help your dog as well, such as:

  • Provide a comfortable, well padded bed to help ease some of the pressure on his joints.
  • Provide a hot water bottle or heated rice bag wrapped in a towel and placed under your dogs bed to help ease the pain in arthritic joints. Care should be taken if you are using a heating pad to avoid burning your dog's skin.
  • Dogs with arthritis usually have difficulty using stairs. By providing a ramp you can make it easier for your dog to get from floor to floor and into the yard comfortably without the need of stairs. Ramps can also be used to help larger dogs get in and out of your car.
  • Make food and water more accessible by providing an elevated food and water dish. This will allow your dog to access these items without bending his neck or front legs into an uncomfortable position.
  • Maintaining your dogs ideal body condition and weight can be helpful in controlling the pain experienced with arthritis. Try to avoid over feeding your arthritic dog and be sure to encourage exercise. If your dog is already overweight, talk with your veterinarian about putting your dog on a weight control program. Weight management is critical with arthritis. If appropriate, a weight reduction program should be started and closely monitored by your veterinarian.
  • Exercise is very important for arthritic dogs but all exercise should be low impact to avoid further stress on already damaged joints. Leash walking and mild controlled jogging are acceptable forms of exercise for dogs with arthritis. Swimming is another excellent exercise for dogs with arthritis and is a commonly used form of physical rehabilitation. Be sure to check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dogs exercise routine.

Courtesy of Marilyn Murray ~ For The Love of Animals