Arthritis in dogs is a degenerative joint disease that — depending on the type of arthritis and certain lifestyle factors — can affect our pets at any age. But, it's most common in older dogs.
Our pets often "slow down" as they get older. While this is part of the aging process, it shouldn't be written off as normal. When our dogs become less mobile or less interested in their favorite daily activities, it's often a sign of an underlying health problem.
Decreased mobility is one of the most common signs of arthritis, but it can also be a sign of other health conditions, like a hormone imbalance or a heart problem. So, it's important to have a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) diagnose your dog.
If you suspect your dog has arthritis, here's what you can expect from the disease and how you can help your pet:
Arthritis causes the cartilage that protects our dog's joints to slowly break down. Without that protective barrier, the bones and ligaments rub against each other, which leads to inflammation and joint pain. It's a progressive disease that gets worse over time.
Arthritis typically starts with joint effusion, or excess fluid around your dog's joints. Then, it progresses to joint degeneration, or a breakdown of the affected joints. The disease progresses in this way regardless of the type of arthritis your dog has.
There are several types of arthritis, and the type will affect the risk factors and treatment options.
Veterinary researchers haven't identified a cause of osteoarthritis, but they have found several factors that can put your dog at risk of developing the disease. Here are the most common risk factors:
Although these risk factors make it more likely that your dog will develop arthritis, the disease can affect any dog. Meanwhile, some dogs with one or more risk factors never develop arthritis. Your dog's symptoms and behavior will be the clearest indicator of whether or not they need to get checked for this disease.
These are the most common symptoms of arthritis. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, or if your dog appears to be in pain, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Those are the primary symptoms of arthritis — the arthritis causes the symptom — but there are also secondary symptoms. Secondary symptoms are caused by the primary symptoms, rather than by the disease itself. An arthritic dog's decreased activity levels can lead to weight gain and loss of muscle mass.
If your dog is showing signs of arthritis, make an appointment with a DVM. Your pet will need an official diagnosis before they can access some of the treatment options.
When your vet checks your dog for arthritis, they'll start by performing a physical exam. They will likely feel and may move your dog's joints. Some arthritic dogs become aggressive when their joints are touched. Warn your vet if your dog has shown any signs of aggression.
If your vet suspects arthritis based on your dog's symptoms and physical exam, the next step is to take X-rays of the affected joints. Your dog will need to undergo anesthesia for this scan(s).
Your dog will need an arthritis diagnosis before they can access veterinary treatment options, but there are also several holistic options that you can use at home anytime.
From prescription medications to physical therapy, these are the treatments that are available through a vet's office. Not every veterinarian can provide all of these options. Hydrotherapy, for example, requires specialized equipment that's not available in all vet clinics. However, your vet should be able to recommend a practitioner even if they don't offer a therapy themselves.
Holistic treatment options have few if any side effects. Aside from helping dogs that already have arthritis, they may also help prevent or delay the onset of arthritis in dogs that are at risk of developing the disease. Here are some of the best holistic remedies for dogs with arthritis:
If your dog is at risk of developing arthritis, there's a lot you can do to keep them moving. Take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice any stiffness or decreased mobility. They'll need an official diagnosis to get access to veterinary treatment options.
For dogs with multiple risk factors — including a larger size, advanced age, at-risk breed, or past injury — starting with holistic therapies before the first signs of arthritis emerge can protect their long-term joint health. Monitor your dog's food intake to keep them at a healthy weight, incorporate low-impact exercise into your daily routine, and add all-natural remedies, like Omega Oil, Relief Chews, and turmeric for dogs.For more ideas on naturally supporting your pet's health, check out the Native Pet blog.
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