Arthritis in Dogs 101 – Signs, Treatment, and What to Expect

It can be quite amazing to realize just how closely dogs and humans are when it comes to the challenges of growing older in life. For example, 23% of humans in America suffer from arthritis as they age, and dogs are close to that same wavelength as well. According to Petco, 1 out of every 4 dogs will develop canine arthritis at some point in their lives, proving that arthritis itself does not discriminate against species.  

Now, if you have this condition yourself or know of someone who has, then you are all too familiar with how it can reduce life quality. And since dogs cannot speak for themselves, you, as the owner, have to be mindful of the signs so you can get them on the best treatment plan as soon as possible.  

What is Dog Arthritis?

Arthritis is an incurable condition that can happen to anyone, and dogs are not immune to this reality. In simple terms, arthritis is known as a degenerative joint disease. Though the disease itself can take on diverse forms, the most common type found in dogs is called canine osteoarthritis. This occurs when the smooth cartilage that cushions a dog’s joint bones wears away, causing a bone rubbing friction. That very friction becomes the catalyst for painful inflammation, and can even develop bone growths around the joints, limiting mobility.

Though age tends to have a lot to do with arthritis forming, there are several other reasons that it could cause it, such as:

  • Breed and size of the dog (larger breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers are predisposed to elbow and hip dysplasia and osteochondrosis, which can cause secondary arthritis);
  • Autoimmune disorders such as Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis (IMPA);
  • Repetitive movements;
  • Injury from trauma; and
  • Diet and weight.

Arthritis Signs

There are several signs that your dog is having a hard time moving due to inflamed, painful joints. Some clear indicators include:

  • Favoring one or more limbs over the other
  • Stiffness and slowness when getting up
  • Changes in sitting positioning
  • Does not want to go on walks
  • Hard time jumping
  • Excessive panting
  • Sleeping more than normal

If your dog is on the younger side and features any of these signs, then that should be a red flag for you that something is not right. However, one of the biggest reasons why arthritis can go undetected longer than it should is because many owners contribute slowing down, sleeping more, or changes in posture as a sign of aging. Sure, this can be a factor, but nonetheless, still get them checked out just in case.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

First and foremost, if you notice any of the signs above, no matter what age or breed your dog is, schedule an exam with the vet. Upon taking them, the vet will perform a physical exam and perhaps various imaging modalities. They will look for pain responses when testing their limbs, use x-rays and CT scans to see any bone structural changes and other diagnostic tools (such as an MRI) to see the soft tissue structures.

Once the final verdict is back, there is a massive range of treatment plans you can do to make their lives easier. Some of those ways can be animal rehabilitation exercises, implementing a healthier diet to control their weight, doing activity modifications (such as limiting jumping motions), and pain/anti-inflammatory control medications. In severe cases, surgical management could be suggested as the best treatment of choice. 

What You Can Do at Home

Some things you can do right at home to help your dog feel better, in conjunction to vet prescribed treatments, is to keep your dog as active as you can to reduce symptoms of immobility. You can also think of innovative ways that can support them in being more comfortable, like investing in a dog stroller, a mid-torso walking aid to offer rear support, or getting portable stairs for the end of your bed so they don’t have to jump. Furthermore, yes, getting them to stay active is ideal, but do not force them and let them take breaks and rest as needed.  

Small things such as this can make a huge difference in their day to day functionalities, allowing them to still do all the things they love, but with less hassle and pain. 

Conclusion – Long Term Disease with Long Term Treatment 

If you suspect that your dog might be suffering from arthritis, make sure you immediately get in touch with their vet. Though there is no known cure for this condition, there are plenty of ways to help ease pains and increase mobility so they can live an extraordinary life regardless. Even investing in a natural dog detox remedy to improve their immune system is a pinnacle way to counter the adverse effects while reducing the arthritis progression. Whatever you choose to do, always remember that arthritis is a manageable obstacle, and as long as you pay attention to the signs, treat it early, and leverage the long-term guidance of their vet, your dog will be able to live a happy, pain-free life like they deserve.