- What is Canine Arthritis?
- What Causes Arthritis In Canines?
- Common Signs and Symptoms of Joint Disease Includes:
- Diagnosing Arthritis In Canines; Degenerative Joint Disease
- Treating Arthritis In Dogs; Naturally vs Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs
- Modify Your Home to Accommodate Dogs With Arthritis
- CBD For Dogs With Arthritis
- Other Natural Treatments For Arthritis In Dogs; Joint Supplements
Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints of people and animals alike. If your dog has recently been diagnosed with arthritis, you're most likely wondering what you can do to keep your pet's quality of life as high as possible.
Watching your best friend get older can be a bittersweet experience for any dog owner but thankfully there are some things you can do around the home to help decrease arthritis discomfort on top of what your vet prescribes!
In this article, we'll break down what arthritis actually is, what causes it, how to diagnose it, and provide alternative medications to harmful NSAIDS or Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
What is Canine Arthritis?
Arthritis is a type of joint disease that happens after the joint cartilage and underlying bones begin to wear down and become weak. It can cause pain and inflammation in the affected joints, reducing your dog's mobility and excitement levels. While it's normal for dogs to slow down as they get older, arthritis leads to a significant reduction in your pet's willingness to be active.
One in every five dogs develops arthritis at some point in their lives, making it a fairly common disease. In fact, it's the most common cause of pain in aging dogs. Most of the time arthritis is just the result of wear and tear on your dog's joints over the course of their life. As they play, run, and jump, they are putting stress on their joints, and slowly wearing them out.
By the time they get into their later canine years, the cartilage in the joints is thin and vulnerable. This cartilage serves as a cushion between their joints, and as it begins to wear down, your pet's joints grind together, causing a good deal of discomfort. This has the potential to cause spurs, but it isn't guaranteed. Any joint in your dog's body can be affected by arthritis, but most commonly it will target their hips, elbows, knees, wrists, shoulders, ankles, and lower back.
What Causes Arthritis In Canines?
Just like the joints in humans, canine joints are vulnerable to wear and tear over time. Your pet's joints consist of two bones that fit into one another, with a layer of cartilage forming a cushion between them. Surrounding this is synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant for the joint.
In normal joint health, the cartilage and synovial fluid allow the joint to move smoothly and painlessly. However, that cartilage and fluid can wear down for a variety of reasons, resulting in the bones having little to no cushion between one another. This grinding causes a great deal of pain and discomfort for your furry friend, which is why you may notice them lying down more than running.
This cartilage can break down for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's nothing more than your dog has lived a long and active lifestyle. Other times it's the result of joint trauma, a birth defect, abnormal development of the joints during adolescence, obesity, cartilage deficit, poor nutrition, etc. While arthritis isn't fatal, it is chronic, and the longer it persists untreated, the more pain your pet will be in.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Joint Disease Includes:
- Weight gain
- Increased sleep
- Abnormal movement patterns or limping
- Decreased mobility
- Uneasiness when getting on or off a couch or bed
- Personality changes
- Slow movements
- Reluctance to stand
- Swollen or warm joints
- Sensitivity to having their joints touched
- Visible joint irregularities
- Urinating indoors
- Licking of joints
- Muscle atrophy
Again, these are general symptoms for many health problems in dogs. Any irregular behavior or condition should be diagnosed and treated under a vet's supervision.
Diagnosing Arthritis In Canines; Degenerative Joint Disease
Determining whether your dog's symptoms are a result of arthritis is the first step to getting the issue treated. Keep a log of any and all symptoms, behaviors, and incidents you notice with your dog once you realize that something is affecting your dog. This will be immensely helpful to your vet during the diagnostic process.
After your vet has asked you questions regarding your pet's health, they will perform a physical examination to look for more obvious signs of arthritis as well as pinpoint the affected areas. This involves observing your pet's gait, range of motion, and reaction to having joints touched. They will also look for abnormalities like hip dysplasia, swollen joints, joint deformities, and the like.
Follow up tests may include blood work and a urinalysis. Not necessarily to confirm the issue is arthritis, but to be sure that it isn't something else. Once your vet is sure that arthritis is the root of the issue they will use x-rays to locate all of the affected areas, building up an idea of how widespread and severe their arthritis is. From there, your vet will come up with an effective treatment plan and advise you on what steps to take.
Treating Arthritis In Dogs; Naturally vs Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs
Arthritis is chronic and cannot be cured. Treatment will not be about getting rid of your dog's arthritis since unfortunately, that is not possible. Instead, the goal is to mitigate the symptoms and pain so that your dog can enjoy their life as fully as possible. Another goal of treatment is to slow down the progression of arthritis so that it doesn't get any worse.
Your dog will need to undergo many lifestyle changes in order to keep their arthritis under control, as well as start taking regular medications and/or supplements.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDS, are often prescribed by vets to dogs with arthritis. These drugs reduce inflammation and pain, making it easier for your dog to move around and resume their normal levels of activity. NSAIDs, however, also include a good deal of negative side effects for your pet, both long term and short term.
Short-term side effects of NSAIDs for dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, dehydration, rashes, and lethargy. Longer-term effects include damage to vital organs like their gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys, and stomach. This longer-term damage is not reversible, so if your vet prescribes an NSAID, ask them about alternative medications. NSAIDs aren't particularly harmful in small amounts, but long-term treatment can have severe consequences for your pet's health.
Holistic Treatment For Arthritis In Dogs
Fortunately, there are plenty of holistic treatments for arthritis in dogs that can be used as an alternative to NSAIDs. These treatments are just as effective for treating inflammation and pain that stems from arthritis as NSAIDS, without as many (or any) harmful side effects.
Modify Your Home to Accommodate Dogs With Arthritis
If you are looking for a way to help your dog feel more comfortable at home, then look no further. Making such basic modifications as installing ramps and modifying furniture can make all the difference in their quality of life.
Dogs with arthritis and joint pain may have a fear of walking on slippery surfaces like hardwood or tile because they have limited mobility. Placing nonslip rugs at the base and top of staircases, near couches/beds will help decrease dog joints' impact by lowering their stress levels significantly.
CBD For Dogs With Arthritis
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a natural supplement that can be used to treat a wide range of health issues in pets and people alike, with little to no negative side effects. While there is still a stigma lingering over CBD and other hemp products, the research and evidence touting their health benefits and natural healing properties are quickly erasing that stigma.
CBD botanical supplements for dogs are a THC-free, all-natural, holistic approach to treating your pet's arthritis. It stimulates your dog's endocannabinoid system, which regulates their mood, appetite, pain receptors, and energy levels. It also has natural anti-inflammatory properties, making it great for mitigating symptoms of arthritis.
Benefits of CBD Products:
Other Natural Treatments For Arthritis In Dogs; Joint Supplements
There are other natural remedies for dogs with arthritis that can be used in place of or in conjunction with CBD supplements. Each of these will help with slightly different areas of your dog's arthritis, so consider using a careful combination of these treatments to create a well-rounded defense for your dog's joint health.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound that your dog's system produces on its own. Glucosamine supplements increase the amount in their system, helping them repair and regrow cartilage in affected areas. Because dogs naturally produce this compound, it is considered a nutraceutical rather than a pharmaceutical. This means you can purchase it over the counter, without a prescription from a vet.
If you're familiar with curry, then you've probably heard of turmeric before. It's a root in the ginger family known for giving this dish its signature spice. Not only is it delicious, but it has natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It can manage symptoms of joint pain and swelling in dogs and has been used to do so for a long time in the eastern part of the world.
Yucca is another root with many nutritional and medicinal properties. It contains steroidal saponins that help to reduce pain and inflammation in dogs. Holistic vets often advise treating arthritis in dogs with this root, with a 50% to 80% success rate in reducing symptoms. It's important to note, however, that yucca can irritate your dog's digestive tract over a long period of time, so it's recommended to give them a two-day break from dosing each week.
While you may not enjoy the taste of licorice, it can be used as a quick and effective anti-inflammatory treatment for arthritis in people and animals. Licorice's primary active compound, glycyrrhizin, has a similar structure to corticosteroids without the negative side effects. It is not recommended to administer licorice to dogs that are pregnant or nursing, however, nor to administer for longer than two weeks at a time.
Comfrey is a traditional healing herb used to treat health issues like cancer and digestive issues. Compounds like rosmarinic acid give it anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties, making it an effective way to manage joint pain. It should be noted that comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which can lead to liver issues in large amounts. However, comfrey leaves contain such a small percentage of PAs that it is very difficult to give your pet a harmful amount. Just make sure that you always give them the leaves, and not the roots.
While arthritis isn't fun for you or your pet, it's definitely manageable and fairly common. Health issues like arthritis are a normal part of your dog aging, even if a little disheartening. The best thing you can do for your furry friend is to give them the most comfortable and fulfilling life you can.
There are plenty of treatment options for arthritis that will help your dog retain a high quality of life as they enter the later seasons of their years. So long as you give them a little extra care and the same abundance of love, they'll remain as happy and affectionate as ever.
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade
Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books and making salted caramel cookies.
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