Dogs are sometimes prone to injuries or wear and tear that affect the joints, leading to the wearing of cartilage between the joint bones and thus causing problems later on. Unfortunately, many dog owners fail to recognize the early signs of arthritis in their canine companion until the arthritic changes in the joints and bones have progressed too far. Here is a look at the symptoms and causes of arthritis in dogs to help you better care for your pet.
Symptoms of arthritis
Although arthritis is not curable, early diagnosis is very important in preventing further degeneration of affected joints. The first telltale sign that your dog may be suffering from joint pain is a reluctance to walk, run or jump. You may also notice that muscles in the legs or spine have shrunken or that the dog yelps when you touch certain areas that may be affected.
If you notice reduced activity in your dog, as well as stiffness or extreme tiredness, it may be helpful to take your pet to a clinic like Deep Creek Veterinary Hospital for diagnosis. Veterinarians have a trained eye to notice signs of early arthritis and often rely on X-rays to examine the pet for changes in bone structure, especially at the hips and spine.
Arthritis in dogs can be caused by a wide array of factors. Overweight or older dogs are more prone to joint damage due to excessive wear and tear at the joints. However, even younger dogs can suffer from trauma, infection or a congenital disorder that could lead to the development of the arthritis much earlier in life.
Genetics also play a big role, as certain larger breeds — such as Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and Rottweilers — are more vulnerable. If your dog is diagnosed with arthritis, the following measures could help manage the condition.
Heat in ailing joints can alleviate pain and help muscles relax. Soaks in a hot tub and swimming can be very beneficial to your dog, helping increase motion and reduce joint inflammation and discomfort. You should also keep the dog warm with a sweater during cold weather and ensure their sleeping area is warm and dry. A firm, orthopedic foam mattress could also help distribute the dog's weight evenly during naps, reducing pressure on damaged joints.
Exercise and massage therapy
Light exercises such as short leash walks, slow jogging, swimming or going up and down the stairs can effectively enhance muscle building, increase motion and reduce wear and tear in arthritic joints. Gently kneading the muscles surrounding the ailing joints with short circular finger movements, as well as applying hot pads, can also help loosen stiff joints and muscles.