Did you know that one in every 5 adult dogs will develop arthritis? The condition is caused by a combination of age plus wear and tear on the joints. It is a tough disease that includes symptoms of pain, stiffness, inflammation, and loss of mobility. But there is good news because pet owners can slow the effects of arthritis in dogs.
If you’re like me, you’re constantly keeping your eyes peeled for new ailments your dog might face. And when a health challenge arises, it can be like riding a roller coaster until you find a treatment plan that works. That’s what my family went through a few years ago when our sweet boy Cody was diagnosed with osteoarthritis.
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Facts about arthritis in dogs
Arthritis is one of the most common health problems dogs experience. Officially called, osteoarthritis, the condition is defined as the “progressive and permanent deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints.” It causes chronic joint inflammation along with pain, swelling and stiffness. Symptoms generally appear in the second half of life, but dogs can develop arthritis when they are young, especially if there has been a trauma or joint damage.
Unfortunately, arthritis cannot be cured. Once the cartilage in your dog’s joints is damaged, it’s unable to heal itself completely. Fortunately, there are good ways to slow the effects and help our pups live long, healthy, and near pain-free lives.
4 ways to slow the effects
First and foremost, when your dog is diagnosed with arthritis consider adding more exercise into their daily routine. Talk with your veterinarian about exercises that help strengthen your dog’s joints and muscles. These can slow the loss of cartilage. Anything from going for walks, to swimming, to slow jogs and even easy hikes can be beneficial. The goal is to do light exercise that provides both range of motion and an opportunity to build new muscle. So be sure to get your pup moving.
Mobility & stability braces
Many pet parents see benefits to their arthritic dog when they add a joint stability or mobility brace. Here are 4 braces I like from Walkabout Harnesses. Each is endorsed by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
- Walkabout Knee Brace – This brace is used to stabilize a dog’s knee joint. It works by keeping the knee compressed, giving it a chance to heal and inflammation to decrease.
- Elbow Support Brace – Elbows are one of the most common joints that develop arthritis. The brace offers support and compression to painful arthritic elbows and helps dogs walk more comfortably.
- Compression Sleeve – This compression sleeve slips over a dog’s leg to reduce soreness and increase circulation. It works by warming up arthritic legs. Dogs with joint, tendon and ligament instability and fatigue do better when they wear a compression sleeve.
- Carpal Support Brace – This brace is designed to help dogs with arthritic wrists and lower leg joint damage. It decreases swelling, stabilizes the wrist and soothes painful joints.
Pet parents can help their dogs deal with cartilage damage by adding two important supplements to their diet. Glucosamine rebuilds cartilage and restores joint fluid. The beneficial effect can be enhanced by adding Hyaluronic Acid.
Another recommended supplement is Omega-3 Fatty Acids which can help reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a natural byproduct of arthritis because cartilage-barren joints increase pain and swelling, which cause inflammation. By adding Omega-3s as an anti-inflammatory aid, arthritic dogs experience less pain.
The final way pet owners can slow the effects of arthritis in dogs is to maintain a healthy weight. Arthritis tends to be worse in overweight dogs because it puts excessive pressure on already weakened joints.
I mentioned exercise, which will of course help with a dog’s excess weight, but unfortunately, most dogs move less when they suffer from arthritis. This only adds to their weight problem.
To alleviate the cycle of inactivity, start your overweight dog on easy exercise sessions that are short in duration. Keep track of the type and amount of foods your dog eats during the day. A few treats here and there might not seem like much, but they can drastically increase your dog’s weight over time, especially if they are sedentary. A healthy diet, combined with a small amount of exercise each day, will decrease your dog’s waistline. That means your dog’s weakened joints will have less body weight to support.
There are many options available to manage and slow the effects of arthritis in dogs. If you think your pup might suffer from the condition, or if your veterinarian has already diagnosed your dog; I hope you’ll try one or all of these options to see how your dog responds. We all want our animals to be happy and lives free of pain. It’s up to us to help them do exactly that.
Here’s a video about the common signs of arthritis in dogs