Many dogs will start to slow down as they get older. One of the potential causes can be due to inflammation and degeneration of the joints, commonly known as arthritis. While there is no real cure, there are many ways we can manage arthritis to keep your dog comfortable.
You may pick up of the signs of arthritis at home, such as limping, stiff gait, or reluctance to go for walks. Some dogs may have difficulty using the stairs, getting up out of bed, or jumping into the car.
If you are concerned about your dog’s mobility, the first step is to have a vet check to find out if arthritis is the cause, or if there may be another issue at work. Your vet will move and feel your dog’s joints to check for stiffness or pain. In some cases, xrays (radiographs) are recommended for an accurate diagnosis.
If it seems that arthritis is the problem, your vet will discuss the treatment options with you. Of course, these will vary depending on your individual patient and the severity of the arthritis.
1) Weight loss. If your dog is overweight, a lot of extra pressure is being put on their sore joints. Weight loss will help to make them much more comfortable. If required, our vets and nurses can design an effective weight loss program specifically for your dog.
2) Gentle exercise or physiotherapy can be beneficial. Short, easy walks and/or swimming can help keep the joints healthy. At Tasmanian Animal Hospitals, we also have a vibrating physiotherapy mat (Acell therapy) for dogs that you could try out.
3) Good nutrition (such as Hills J/D Canine Mobility). This food is rich in Omega 3s and is designed to help with joint disease.
4) Joint protective medications (Zydax or Cartrophen). These medications are designed to increase the joint fluid and the cushioning between the joints. It is usually given as a course of 4 injections, spaced 1 week apart. After a course, we often have clients report that their dog is running around like a puppy again!
5) Anti-inflammatory medications. In moderate or severe cases of arthritis, daily anti-inflammatory tablets may be required to keep your dog comfortable. This is usually very effective for relief of painful arthritis. However, there are some potential side effects for long-term use such as a risk of kidney issues. Your vet will discuss with you the benefits and risks of long-term medication and together you can decide if it may be appropriate for your dog.
Cold weather tends to exacerbate signs of arthritis, so it helps to keep your dog warm with doggy jumper or even a heated bed on cold nights. Lots of thick, soft bedding is also a big help for old joints.
We hope this quick article has been helpful! If you would like any further information, or if you are worried about the possibility of arthritis in your dog, please call us to chat with one of our nurses or vets. Our aim is to keep your dog happy and comfortable for as long as possible!Dr Grace Woodward BVSc (Hons 1)