09 Dec Does Your Dog Have Arthritis? Here’s What You Need to Know
As dogs age, activities that were once easy and second nature can become a strenuous effort. Difficulty jumping on the couch, issues using the restroom, and reluctance to play may indicate that your dog is slowing down and has officially entered their golden years of life.
We all want our pets to live forever, and thanks to continued advancement in veterinary medicine, many dogs are living longer than ever before! However, this also increases the chance that they will suffer from osteoarthritis as they age.
Osteoarthritis is a common problem in dogs, especially for older dogs and large breeds. It’s important to note that it is possible to prevent or delay osteoarthritis with good nutrition, weight management, proper medication, annual physical exams, and regular exercise.
However, while there is no cure once your dog has been diagnosed, knowing the risk factors and signs will help you work with your veterinarian to identify it early. You can then start implementing treatment plans that will help keep your dog comfortable and active for as long as possible.
Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis
While most dogs develop osteoarthritis as they age, there are a handful of factors that can make your dog more vulnerable to this condition.
Keep an eye out for the symptoms of osteoarthritis if your dog is any of the following:
- A large or giant breed
- Overweight for their breed and age
- Middle-aged or senior
- Extremely active
Some other risk factors for osteoarthritis that you should be aware of are:
- Previous injuries
- Hip or elbow dysplasia
- An infection that affect the joints
- Improper nutrition
- Poor conformation
If your dog has even one of these risk factors, they may be more susceptible to developing osteoarthritis. It’s extremely important to stay up-to-date on their annual exams. Your PetWellClinic® veterinarian will be able to monitor your dog’s overall health and catch any early signs of osteoarthritis that you may not detect as their pet parent.
Signs of Canine Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis can be difficult to detect in its early stages since symptoms are often not apparent until the joint is badly damaged. To make matters worse, your pet will likely hide their discomfort until it is extreme.
Because of this, it is crucial that you continuously monitor your middle-aged dog and those who are predisposed for signs of osteoarthritis.
The signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Stiffness, limping, or difficulty getting up
- Reluctance to run, jump, or play
- Weight gain
- Changes in behavior
- Reluctance to be touched
- Bathroom accidents inside
- Difficulty standing when going to the bathroom
- Unexpected aggression
If your dog is exhibiting any of these signs, make sure to get them evaluated by one of our veterinarians. Our vets will assess them with a full physical examination and may even refer you to another vet for an x-ray.
Thankfully, if your dog is diagnosed with osteoarthritis there are multiple ways to manage it!
Because there is no cure for osteoarthritis, you are not treating your dog’s condition as much as you are managing it. Management is focused on controlling pain, decreasing inflammation, improving quality of life, and slowing any development of the disease.
It has been found that an integrative, multimodal therapy regime is the most recommended and successful management option. While some management options are complex, there are simple things you can do to help with comfort and mobility.
- Soft, padded orthopedic bedding
- Raised food and water dishes
- A ramp for your car and bed
- Regular light exercise
Some of the more complex treatment options include:
Talk to one of our PetWellClinic® veterinarians before you do any of these on your own. We will help you develop a plan that is tailored to your dog’s specific needs.
Nutrition and Weight Management
Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is important no matter their age. For senior dogs with osteoarthritis, however, it’s crucial. Carrying excessive weight on already damaged joints is painful and can speed up cartilage breakdown.
Arthritis Pain Medications
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used as pain-management for osteoarthritis. They help reduce swelling, stiffness, and joint pain. However, be careful and do not give your pup something from your personal medicine cabinet.
In fact, there are a handful of NSAIDs available just for dogs:
In addition to NSAIDs, an injectable arthritis medication known as Librela™ is a form of pain management that was FDA approved in 2023. This is a Zoetis product that will be readily available for purchase directly at PetWellClinic® after it is released to the general public.
The biggest benefit of Librela™ compared to other arthritis medications for dogs is that it provides long-term control over osteoarthritis symptoms, so your dog only needs the injection once per month. NSAIDs, on the other hand, typically require daily doses. If your dog struggles to take pills, Librela™ may be a better option for you.
Our veterinarian will be able to determine if your dog is a good candidate for NSAIDs or Librela™, tell you which prescription medication is best, and recommend the proper dosage. We will walk you through their treatment plan and send you home with written instructions to ensure you are giving the drug only as recommended.
According to the American Kennel Club, joint supplements are often prescribed to “improve function, reduce inflammation, and slow the progression of joint damage.”
However, it is important to note that a supplement will not correct the damage to your dog’s joint. While joint supplements are safe and have proven effective, they work best in combination with other forms of arthritis treatment.
PetWellClinic® offers several supplement options from Nutramax Labs. All of their products are manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities and they work hard to ensure they adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). These supplements can be purchased directly from PetWellClinic®, and our vets will help you determine which supplements would be best for your pet and their specific needs.
If you notice your pet is acting differently, they could be struggling with an injury, infection, or disease. Or, they may be feeling the aches and pains that come with aging. If you aren’t sure what is causing your dog’s behavioral change, the first step is to take your pet to the vet for a physical exam.
Quality of Life
Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that can be managed. With proper care and frequent physical exams, dogs with osteoarthritis commonly live a normal life expectancy!
Your PetWellClinic® veterinarian will help you find the right pain management and nutrition plan that supports your dog’s joint health and helps normalize their body weight and condition. Together, we can develop a well-tailored plan to help manage your dog’s overall pain and discomfort.
PetWellClinic® is dedicated to being here for pet owners. Our hours of operation extend into the evenings and weekends, and our clinic environment is built with your pet’s comfort in mind. Talk to your PetWellClinic® veterinarian about how your arthritic dog could benefit from different treatment options.
PetWellClinic® provides convenient, affordable veterinary care for pet owners. PetWellClinic® has locations and services built with convenience in mind. Stop by with your pet any time! No appointment necessary.
This blog has been updated since its original publication in 2021 for comprehensiveness.