Canine Arthritis, or joint pain, can’t be cured, and it’s not always preventable as your dog grows older. You can, however, do things at home to ease the symptoms or delay their onset.
The use of supplements, gentle exercise, and regular veterinary care can help. When your dog shows subtle signs of discomfort, you can adjust your dog’s environment and treatment as needed to help them.
Perhaps your dog seems to have lost her zest for life. Do you notice she’s reluctant to do activities that used to be enjoyable for her, such as chasing a ball or getting into the car? Does it take her a little longer than usual to get up from bed?
Canine arthritis affects at least 20 percent of adult dogs and is notoriously painful and debilitating.
How Do Dogs Get Arthritis?
Over time, inflammation causes pain, stiffness, and reduced joint mobility. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form, characterized by the thinning and eventual deterioration of the protective tissues between joints.
Joints that are in good health have cartilage and other tissues that serve as shock absorbers for smooth movements and flexibility. Degradation of these shock absorbers leads to joint damage and inflammation caused by the release of substances.
A breakdown of cartilage causes friction between bones. Hip, elbow, knee joint (stifles) and lower back are the most common areas of OA in dogs.
Chronic Joint Pain: What Causes It?
Dogs suffer from arthritis and chronic joint pain due to a variety of causes, which often occur together. Among them are:
- Experiencing repeated trauma from high-impact sports
- Weight gain/obesity
- Existing joint instability due to ruptures of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or hip dysplasia.
- Anatomical Conformations such as breeds with short legs and long bodies (for instance, Dachshunds, Bassets, and English Bulldogs).
- In larger breeds, such as labs, golden retrievers, and German Shepherds, joint problems are more common than in smaller ones, but any dog may be prone to develop arthritis if the conditions are right.
How is Chronic Joint Pain Diagnosed in Dogs?
Your veterinarian may perform the following diagnostic tests to determine if your dog has osteoarthritis-related joint pain:
- Physical exam: Inspecting for swelling and pain localized to the area
- X-rays are taken to detect abnormalities
- Assessment of mobility through gait evaluation and limb manipulation
- Analysis of the joint fluid to rule out other causes
One of the most powerful diagnostic tools is to observe your dog at home. Dogs rarely vocalize unless they are experiencing acute, sharp pain, so it is important to monitor their habits and behavior. During the early stages of arthritis in dogs, symptoms may be subtle.
Keep an eye out for these signs in your dog.
- Low energy levels/sleeping more
- Loss of interest in physical activity
- Negative reactions to touching or petting certain areas.
- Having difficulty getting up or lying down
- Avoiding climbing stairs, jumping on furniture, and getting in the car
- Accidents in the house
- An increased tendency to pant or drool (could indicate stress)
- Irritability (chronic pain)
- Vocalizing with specific movements
How to treat chronic joint pain at home?
Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis at this time, there are a growing number of treatment options that can alleviate your dog’s pain; increase their mobility, and slow the cartilage degeneration process.
A treatment plan that combines medicine with supportive care and home remedies has been shown to be most effective. Be sure to consult your veterinarian before introducing these to your dog’s treatment plan.
If your pet is overweight, your vet can help you determine the best weight-loss strategies.
- Keeping your dogs’ weight in check is essential to managing osteoarthritis joint pain. Because extra weight puts more pressure on joints, obese dogs are more likely to develop arthritis. You should talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s weight and create a weight-loss plan if necessary.
- Cannabidiol (CBD, a cannabinoid derivative) is believed to reduce pain and anxiety, and many pet owners are trying it for canine arthritis. It is considered safe in combination with other medications, though it is partially metabolized through the same metabolic pathway as NSAIDs, so side effects should be monitored closely.
- At-home activities vary according to the dog’s condition and the severity of the joint pain, but walking for 10 minutes two or three times a day rather than one long walk is a good rule of thumb. Dogs may feel less pain when exercising because excitement and activity release endorphins and adrenaline, allowing them to overdo it.
- Gentle massage will increase blood flow to your dog’s sore spots, as will applying alternate cold and hot treatments.
- Spending time with your dog outside in the fresh air is very therapeutic. Sunlight stimulates the body to produce vitamin D, which boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, strengthens the joints, and aids in calcium absorption. If your dog is feeling down due to pain, fresh air will help lift her spirits.
- Supplements for joints such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, MSM, and others (see box) are referred to as nutraceuticals. Combined with pharmaceutical drugs, they can reduce joint discomfort and may also allow for a reduction in dosage and frequency of their prescribed pharmaceutical drugs. A veterinarian can advise you on which nutritional supplements to try since supplements are not regulated by the FDA and their quality and potency may differ.
Joint pain supplements that work best
Many products contain combinations of the supplements on this list for dogs.
- Chondroitin sulfate
- Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)
- MSM (methylsulfonylmethane)
- Green-lipped mussel
- SOD (superoxide dismutase)
- Fortetropin (fertilized chicken egg yolk powder)
- ASU (avocado/soybean unsaponifiables, available as Dasuquin)
- Sea cucumber
How can I help my dog who suffers from chronic joint pain live a more comfortable life?
You can help your dog cope with arthritis by making these changes in the home:
- Place portable steps or ramps in places your dog can no longer jump.
- Invest in thick bedding, such as memory foam or orthopedic mattresses. A heated dog bed or heating pad for dogs can also offer relief from joint pains (the temperature should be warm but not hot to the touch). Your dog’s bed should be large enough for her to stretch out if she needs to relieve pressure on sore joints.
- To keep your dog from slipping on uncarpeted floors, use non-skid rugs or yoga mats (use extra-long mats or 100-foot rolls of yoga mat material, available online). His/Her nails should be trimmed, as well as any extra fur around her paw pads. Pads provide a dog with traction, but dry or worn-down pads don’t grip well; try applying Bag Balm or Musher’s Secret to the pads. For better traction, booties or toe grips are another option. (Your dog may need some time to adjust to them.)
- Raising water and food bowls off the ground will keep your dog from bending and straining when eating.
- If your dog requires assistance getting up or has other mobility issues, get them a lifting harness or support sling.
- Acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular for treating canine joint pain, and it is beneficial for some dogs.
- Physical therapy is crucial to treating osteoarthritis in dogs. Exercise that involves low impact strengthens the muscles around joints, keeps them mobile, and reduces stiffness and pain. Larger veterinary hospitals now offer a range of physical therapy options, including ultrasound, shock wave, and targeted Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (tPEMF) therapies, electrical stimulation, range-of-motion stretching, and cold-laser therapy.
- Hydrotherapy (swimming in a warm-water pool or using an underwater treadmill) works your muscles while having a low impact on your joints by swimming in a warm water pool or walking in an underwater treadmill. Taking a dip in cold water, however, can be counterproductive, as it causes muscles and joints to stiffen up.
While you cannot cure canine arthritis, there are steps you can take to mitigate its effects. A combination of pain control, weight management, and low-impact exercise can help your arthritic dog thrive in his/her golden years.
Watch This German Shepherd Not Want To Get Out Of Her Family’s Pond
A german shepherd, no matter how physically different they are from humans, is much like human kids. When they want to do something, they will undoubtedly muscle their way to do it, even if it involves defying their parents’ order. Such as this one in the family’s pond.