As dogs get older, they slow down, and it’s quite to easy notice subtle changes in their movements. You might have noticed these changes in your older dog: the easy run becomes a stiff walk, jumping to a favorite chair becomes a rare activity, lying down is accompanied with a groan and rising up becomes slower. These are early signs of arthritis, a health condition common in older dogs as research indicates that about 60 percent of dogs over the age of seven suffer from the affliction.
Although different types of arthritis can affect dogs, the most common is osteoarthritis which is a degenerative form of the disease (also known as Degenerative Joint Disease).
Symptoms of arthritis in older dogs
The common signs of arthritis in all dogs include overall stiffness, difficulty in getting up after lying down, less interest in walks, lameness or a limp and so on. These are general signs of arthritis in dogs of all age and breed, but there are symptoms peculiar to older dogs, and they include:
- Painting and restlessness
- Avoids exercises
- Limping or difficulty with movement
- Loss of interest in play
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of muscle mass
- Irritation when touched or petted
- Weight gain
- Swollen joints
Causes of arthritis in older dogs
The common causes of arthritis in older dogs include:
- Breed: Some breeds are more likely to have joint problems like arthritis than others. Examples are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweiler, and German Shepherds.
- Obesity: Overweight puts extra weight on a dog’s skeletal frame, and this can affect the joints and ligaments. Left unchecked for too long, it may degenerate to injury/damage which may eventually lead to arthritis.
- Lack of exercise: Apart from helping to reverse obesity, exercises help strengthen your dog’s bones, muscles, and ligaments. Lack of exercise can also lead to damage and eventually osteoarthritis.
- Injury: It’s not uncommon for dogs to have injuries like ligament tears, broken bones and dislocations but when they become consistent, they can lead to joint damage.
How to help older dogs with arthritis
- If your pooch is overweight, adjust his diet by feeding him the right amount of healthy, balanced food. Also, apply moderation in giving treats or go for low-calorie treats.
- Exercise your dog regularly but make sure they suit his condition. Your older dog isn’t as energetic as he used to be, so go for low impact exercises. Some great ideas include swimming, playing games, and slow but steady walking.
- Give him bodywork to help increase his flexibility, circulation, and sense of wellbeing. You can ask your vet for a recommendation to certified canine massage therapists. Some are even happy to teach dog owners the techniques.
- Get glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for your pooch to help promote healthy cartilage and joint health. They can also aid in the repair of damaged joints and often have anti-inflammatory effects to relieve the pain.
- Pharmaceutical drugs like Rimadyl and Adequan, also play a vital role in treating arthritis. However, they should only be given to dogs on a vet’s prescription. Additionally, you need to consider the pros and cons of using the drugs as well their side effects.
- Consider going for other complementary therapies like acupuncture which has been proven to promote mobility in dogs. Some vets also prescribe herbal remedies to support the benefits of acupuncture.
- If all the tips above prove to be ineffective, there’s a good chance your dog’s arthritis is at an advanced stage and might require surgery. Ask your dog’s vet about everything you ought to know before choosing the surgery option.
Finally, Arthritis is a painful condition that can make the life of four-legged companion uncomfortable. Therefore, you must carefully study the signs listed above and ensure that you seek the advice of a vet doctor if you observe any sign.