Rolling dog

Arthritis

Arthritis in Dogs

Arthritis doesn’t discriminate. It affects people and dogs of all ages. If you notice major changes in your dog’s mood and activity, it could be arthritis - one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat.

What is arthritis?

It’s a degenerative condition that affects and inflames one or more joints. It can result in changes to the joint cartilage, joint fluid, joint bones and capsule of the joint.

What causes arthritis in dogs?

There are many things that can cause arthritis in dogs such as:

  • traumatic injuries that result in joint instability
  • obesity - being overweight increases the forces in the joint
  • genetically weakened or unstable joints e.g. hip dysplasia
  • failure of proper bone development in young dogs

Which breeds are more likely to get arthritis?

Any dog of any age can get arthritis. However, medium to large breeds are at greater risk because the extra weight is more likely to damage their joints. Some of these breeds include Labradors, Retrievers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Collies and Kelpies.

What are the symptoms of arthritis in dogs?

Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us what’s wrong, so it’s important to keep an eye out for clues and subtle changes such as:

  • difficulty sitting or standing
  • favouring a limb
  • decreased activity or less interest in play
  • attitude or behaviour changes
  • having stiff or sore joints
  • being less alert
  • reluctance to jump, run or climb stairs
  • weight gain
  • sleeping more

How can I treat and reduce the chance of arthritis?

You need to consult your vet to find out the best arthritis treatments and preventive measures for your dog. However, here are some things you can do to help.

Weight management

You have control over the amount and type of food your dog eats. So make it easier for them to get their recommended weight, and keep it there.

Smart exercise

No exercise can be worse than doing too much. At the same time, the wrong type of exercise can be just as harmful. Your dog needs low impact exercises that offer a good range of motion, build muscle and limit wear and tear on their joints. These could include:

  • walking and slow jogging on grass
  • walking on treadmills
  • swimming
  • going up and down stairs

Remember to warm-up your dog’s muscles before they exercise, and then warm-down afterwards.

Warmth and good sleeping areas

Arthritis often gets worse in cold, damp weather. Keep your dog warm and comfortable with a blanket or little jumper. Think about making your home a bit warmer, too.

And to make life easier when your dog wants to kick back and relax, consider getting a firm, orthopaedic foam bed. They help distribute weight evenly and reduce pressure on joints. They are also much easier for your stiff and aching friend to get out of.

Massage and physical therapy

There are veterinary physical therapists who can perform soothing physiotherapy on your dog. They can also show you how to perform physical therapy and massage at home to help relax your dog’s stiff muscles and increase the range of motion in their joints.

Medications

Medications are available to help manage the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Some of these medications include those that manage the chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Many of us find daily dosing with medication inconvenient and difficult to remember. The first once-a-month nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in Australia is now available to dog owners. This new monthly dosing option provides assured pain relief which can help slow the progression of the disease thereby providing a better quality of life for your pet. Speak to your local vet for more information on the best treatment options for your dog.

Your veterinarian may prescribe arthritis medications to assist in managing the pain caused by your dog’s arthritis. For further information about this, please contact your vet.