As they get older, many dogs suffer from osteoarthritis. The term arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints and symptoms include joint pain and stiffness. If your dog no longer romps up the stairs and seems to get up slowly and carefully, he probably has some degree of joint pain.
Certain breeds of dogs are more likely to get arthritis. Obese dogs also have a much greater risk of developing arthritis than their lean canine counterparts. If your dog has ever had a problem in any joints, such as hip dysplasia, or trauma such as a broken bone, the risk of arthritis is greater.
Dogs also can be predisposed to arthritis if they’ve had certain infections, such as Lyme disease, so it’s a good idea to watch out for ticks, which are often carriers of Lyme disease. Many canines are rather stoic about pain, but if you see your dog limping or he has difficulty moving around or sensitivity to being touched, you should talk to your veterinarian.
Veterinarians see a lot of dogs with arthritis, and fortunately, a number of treatments are now available. However, remember that arthritis can’t be cured, so treatment generally focuses on pain management. For years, vets have prescribed low doses of aspirin for dogs to help manage pain. Now newer arthritis drugs are available, such as the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, which are designed to reduce inflammation and pain, but not have as many side effects. There are several different brands your veterinarian may recommend.
Nutraceutical supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin are often used in the treatment of canine arthritis as well. These supplements may help slow cartilage breakdown and decrease swelling damage.
When you talk to your veterinarian about drug treatments, be sure you get information about possible side effects. So, read the drug package inserts and always follow your veterinarian’s advice as far as dosage. Your veterinarian will also suggest that you couple any NSAID treatment with clinical screening and monitoring to guard against adverse drug effects.
At home, you can help make your pet more comfortable by making simple changes like providing a soft bed. A bed with extra padding is a lot easier on joints than sleeping on a cold hard floor. If your dog is fat, putting him on a diet will also help. Regular exercise keeps the muscles and ligaments in good shape.
Arthritis treatment for your dog may also include new or alternative therapies such as cold laser therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage. These treatments help dogs the same way they help humans. Although cold laser therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care require a veterinarian’s expertise, massage is something you can learn to do yourself. As with humans, massage can help ease stiffness and increase circulation, so your pet feels better. Doggie massage isn’t just relaxing for the dog either. Basically, giving your dog a massage is an excuse to pet all that great canine fur a little more than usual, which is good for you too.