This photo of John and his dog Schoep has gone viral. John is easing 19 year old Schoep’s arthritis pain by submerging him in the waters of Lake Superior. The cool water and buoyancy allow Schoep to sleep.
What’s Arthritis in Dogs?
Arthritis in dogs is a painful condition that can be caused by natural “wear and tear” on the cartilage and other parts of the joints, an injury, or even an infection. Virtually any joint can encounter some wear and tear during its lifetime. But for some dogs, hereditary conditions or old injuries can lead to more severe deterioration of the vital tissue around a joint. When this happens, arthritis can develop.
Arthritis is one of the oldest diseases in history. We know that humans have lived with the chronic aches and pains of arthritis. So it makes sense that dogs get arthritis, too. In fact, it is a common ailment of man’s best friend.
Arthritis in Dogs: Signs & Symptoms
Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us where it hurts. In fact, they can’t even tell us when it hurts. So sometimes it’s difficult to know when your dog is in pain. What we do know is that dogs experience pain and discomfort the same way humans do, but they tend to hide their pain. Your dog can’t explain what’s wrong with him, so it’s important to watch his non-verbal cues closely and take even subtle changes seriously.
Dogs display a wide variety of responses to pain:
- They may be violent and vocalize – or be quiet, withdrawn and inactive.
- They may be aggressive when approached, as they try to protect themselves from further pain, or they may be subdued or withdrawn.
- Their ears may lie flat against their head.
- They may lick the affected area.
The key is to look for a change in your dog’s behavior. Because arthritis is a progressive condition that manifests itself over time, the signs of pain become more apparent as the condition becomes more severe.
It is important to observe dogs closely for the signs of arthritis, including:
- General decrease in activity or exercise
- Reluctance to walk, run, climb stairs, jump or play
- Stiffness or decreased movement of joints
- Limping or lameness
- Difficulty rising from a resting position
- Lagging behind on walks
- Soreness when touched
- Yelping or whimpering in pain
- Acting aggressive or withdrawn
- Exhibiting other personality changes
If you notice any of these changes, see us. The sooner the condition is recognized, the sooner your dog will feel less pain and become active again. We can help!
The Human-Hound Connection
Now you know that both you and your dog can get arthritis, but did you know that managing your dog’s arthritis can help you better manage yours? It’s true that having a pet can give you a positive spin on life, boost your attitude and lift your spirits. Pet-owners also tend to live longer and have fewer visits to the doctor’s office.
More good news is that the treatment strategy for osteoarthritis in humans and in canines is similar:
- Early diagnosis and treatment
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Proper medication
Don’t Spare Yourself to Spoil the Dog
We can’t help it. We spoil our pets. If you focus more on your dog’s health than on yours, try these tips to keep both of you healthy and active.
- Visit the doctor. Your pet needs to see the veterinarian at least once a year for a check-up – maybe more. When you make his appointment, call your own doctor and schedule one for yourself. Make sure you both get some baseline X-rays to chart your bone deterioration.
- Shed excess pounds. Pay more attention to what your pet eats and when, and do the same for yourself. Read the food labels for each of you to make sure that every bite is giving you both good energy and nutrition. Limit your servings and don’t cheat by eating between meals or slipping Fido extra snacks.
- Coordinate your dog’s medication schedule with your own to make sure you both take your dosage every day. Arrange medicine with mealtime if it needs to be taken with food. Keep your meds together so you will see yours every time you reach for his. Use colorful stickers or permanent markers to help distinguish whose medication is whose, especially if you have trouble reading small print.
- Never let your dog take your medicine – and don’t take his – without discussing it with your doctor.
- Let Rover take you for walk. Instead of kicking your dog off the couch so you can stretch out, kick him off, grab the leash and stretch out together. Take a walk or run with your four-legged friend. You’ll both strengthen the muscles around your joints, which reduces stress on the joint itself. But don’t over do it. Both of you need to increase exercise levels slowly and stay hydrated. Monitor how you both feel after the walk to determine if you need to increase or decrease your level next time. Don’t only treat your own blisters and sore feet – be sure to check Fido’s paws and pads after exercising for lesions or lacerations.
Therapies may include:
- Healthy diet and exercise to help maintain proper weight.
- Working with your veterinarian to find a drug treatment that helps relieve the pain.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS): the most common form of pharmaceutical treatment for arthritis in dogs.
- Over-the-counter pet treatments, such as pills or food containing either glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate or Omega fatty acids. Both have shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis in dogs.
- A veterinarian-prescribed NSAID and an over-the-counter treatment that together may help decrease pain and disease progression.
Never give your dog human medication without checking first with your veterinarian. Certain medications can be toxic to dogs – particularly acetaminophen and ibuprofen – and a safe dose will differ between a greyhound and a dachshund.
What more can I do to help manage my dog?s pain?
Call Us Today! Our Veterinarians can assess your pet and get them started them on the appropriate medications to ease your pet’s pain. We may suggest a weight loss program or exercise regimen. You can also help to make your dog as comfortable as possible by providing a soft place to sleep and keeping him or her warm. Performing massage and physical therapy on your dog as directed by your veterinarian can relieve joint stiffness and increase range of motion. In addition, raising food and water bowls to avoid neck strain, installing ramps to avoid your dog having to use stairs, putting non-skid runners on slippery surfaces, and other such supportive measures can help make daily activities less painful.