Arthritis in Dogs
Arthritis is one of the oldest diseases in history. We know that the dinosaurs had it and there is evidence that early humans lived with the same chronic aches and pains. So it makes sense that dogs get arthritis, too. In fact, it is a common ailment of man’s best friend. Most dogs over the age of seven have some degree of arthritis. There are many things that you can do as a pet owner to alleviate many of the signs.
As arthritis is defined as inflammation of the joints, the primary sign is lameness. This may be seen as difficulty rising after lying down, or reluctance to bear full weight on one leg. There may be reluctance to walk, run, climb stairs, jump, or play. Your dog may lag behind on walks. You may notice a reluctance to extend rear legs, sluggishness, tiredness, and low activity. Some pets have arthritis in their backs, and this is displayed with a hunched spine and reluctance to move. In certain pets you can move the affected joint and hear noise called crepitus; this is the sound of arthritic bone grinding against bone. Your dog may exhibit uncharacteristic aggression or withdrawn behavior, or other personality/behavior changes.
The most common type of arthritis is degenerative joint disease (DJD), or osteoarthritis. This can be primary, the cause of which is unknown or secondary, following conditions involving joint instability. Some common causes of DJD include hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture.
Other causes include joint infection, often as the result of bites or injuries or it may follow joint trauma and damage. Infective or septic arthritis can be caused by a variety of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Septic arthritis normally only affects a single joint and the condition results in swelling, fever, heat, and pain in the joint. Before long your pet is likely to stop eating and become depressed.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune-mediated, erosive, inflammatory condition. Cartilage and bone are eroded within affected joints and the condition can progress to complete joint fixation (ankylosis). It may affect single joints or multiple joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) factors can be detected with blood tests. Other types of immune-mediated arthritis can be non-erosive, such as arthritis that is associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE). SLE is often accompanied by other clinical signs in addition to the arthritis.
MEDICATION - Work with your veterinarian to find a drug treatment that helps relieve the pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are the most common form of pharmaceutical treatment for arthritis in dogs.
GLUCOSAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE - This is the most important supplement to add to your pet's diet. It helps to rebuild the cartilage and delay further cartilage breakdown. It can come in a variety of combinations. Glucosamine can be given in combination with chondroitin as this supplement may improve the effectiveness of glucosamine.
FATTY ACIDS - Omega 3 fatty acids are critical for every arthritic pet. They are a good source of antioxidants.
DIET - If your pet is overweight, then get him/her on a diet. A safe weight loss target is 15% of the body weight in a 6-month period. Any additional weight puts incredible strain on already sore joints. If you are serious about having your pet lose pounds you will see a dramatic improvement. Feed a high-quality, calorie-reduced, or elevated-fiber diet, and stop giving all table scraps and treats.