Sadly, arthritis is one of the most common health conditions in senior dogs. It can cause them a great deal of pain, stress, and general discomfort. As a pet owner, this can be heartbreaking to watch. Fortunately, though, there are plenty of natural remedies and traditional pharmaceuticals to ease the effects of your pet's arthritis.
What Is Arthritis In Dogs?
You've likely heard of arthritis in people. It's a pretty common condition that can cause pain and inflammation in joints throughout a person's body. What you may not have known, however, is that dogs can develop arthritis just like we do. In fact, it's the number one cause of pain in elderly dogs. It comes in many forms, including osteoarthritis, septic arthritis, spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and spondylosis.
Arthritis is a degenerative disease of your dog's joints. It causes the cartilage in your pet's joints to wear down. Cartilage is what cushion the place where two bones form a joint, allowing for smooth and easy motion. When this cushion starts to break down, it can make it painful and difficult for your dog to move. As a result, dogs with arthritis tend to be significantly less mobile than they were before, especially when it comes to activities like running, playing, or even going up and down steps.
Because arthritis is a degenerative disease - meaning it gets worse over time - it's important to start treating the issue as soon as possible in order to slow down its progress. Arthritis is usually only seen in older dogs, around age seven and up, though it can occur earlier than that.
What Causes Arthritis In Dogs?
Arthritis is caused by a number of factors, and pinning it down the cause is an important part of the treatment process. In fact, the kind of arthritis that your pet has is determined by the root cause of the issue. The majority of the time, arthritis is caused by excess stress and damage being done to your pet's joints over time. An easy example of this would be weight gain. The extra weight, and obesity in dogs, adds stress to the joints of your dog's body, and over a long period of time can wear down their joint cartilage.
Other ways that your pet's joints could become strained is an overactive lifestyle, birth defects, and joint injuries. Infections and immune disorders can also cause the cartilage in your dog's joints to break down as well. Sometimes, due to conditions like osteochondrosis dissecans, the cartilage in a dog's joints might even thicken rather than wear down, which can also cause arthritic issues.
And other times, arthritis is simply a result of your dog's age -, especially in senior dogs. Like anything in life, things start to deteriorate over time, and your pet's joints are no exception. Any slight misalignment or loose areas in your dog's joints can lead to the slow erosion of joint cartilage, which - over a lifetime of damage - can result in arthritis.
Symptoms Of Arthritis In Dogs
The most obvious and common symptom of arthritis is a decrease in your pet's mobility. Without the cartilage cushion to allow for easier movements in your dog's joints, the connecting bones push up against one another. This creates stiff and painful movement, demotivating your dog from wanting to move altogether. You can usually pinpoint the affected joints by watching the way your dog walks and lays down, as well as by gently testing their joints.
Dogs will usually put on weight after they develop arthritis due to the lack of motion and regular exercise. Not only is this weight gain a problem for their general health, but it also worsens the effects of arthritis, creating a vicious cycle. Dogs with arthritis might also show signs of being more irritable or aggressive, possibly even biting. This happens because of their increased pain and is not necessarily directed at you, the pet owner.
Your dog might also lick the affected joints, or try to avoid walking on certain legs if they're in pain. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it's vitally important that you take your pet to a vet as soon as possible. The first reason being, of course, that you want to get their arthritis under control as quickly as possible. But more importantly, you want to be completely sure that arthritis is, in fact, the root of the problem. Always get a professional vet's opinion when you notice your dog struggling.
Managing Arthritis In Dogs
It's important to note that arthritis can't be cured. Once a dog has arthritis, they will always have arthritis. So instead, your job as a pet owner will be to reduce the symptoms and manage the development of the disease as much as possible. To manage this, there are two areas that you need to approach: Pain and inflammation.
The pain factor is fairly obvious; the more pain your dog is in, the less likely they are to move, and the worse their symptoms will get. And besides, being in pain is no fun for anyone. You can use medications to treat your pet's pain, as well as modify their environment to make it as comfortable as possible. This could include adding carpet and rugs, putting ramps over steps, and giving them pillows and dog beds throughout the house.
The second and most important aspect that your dog will have to overcome is inflammation. Inflammation is the immune system's defense against foreign bodies in your dog's body. Your immune system sends chemicals to the area where it believes the foreign bodies are, causing swelling, redness, warmth, and a bit of damage. In cases of arthritis, your body is having an inflammatory response where one isn't needed, meaning that the chemicals are attacking the joint cartilage instead of a physiological threat.
If you are going to keep your dog's arthritis under control, you need to manage this inflammatory response as well as the pain your dog experiences.
The most common method of treating arthritis is through pain relievers, and the most commonly used pain relievers are NSAIDs. NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, help treat both the pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. They work by suppressing the chemicals that your dog's body normally produces during an inflammatory response while also alleviating most of the pain associated with arthritis.
For a long time, these have been the medications of choice for most veterinarians, though over the past several years there has been more and more research warning us of the effects of these medications.
The problem with NSAIDs - like ibuprofen - is that they also suppress the production of other necessary enzymes when they halt the inflammatory process. This can have negative short and long term health effects for your dog. Some of these effects include dehydration, vomiting, nausea, stomach ulcers, kidney failure, and internal bleeding. They're also an easy drug to overdose on, adding even further to their risk as a medication.
That's not to say that you should disregard your vet's advice if they prescribe your pet NSAID pain relievers; you should always follow a vet's advice. But consider talking to your vet about alternatives to NSAIDs, and take actions outside of prescribed drugs to ease your dog's arthritis.
Managing Arthritis In Dogs Naturally
Fortunately, we're living in a time where there are more options available for your pet than the traditional prescription drugs, and research is being done all the time to prove that the alternatives can be effective substitutes. Managing your dog's arthritis naturally can not only spare them the consequences of traditional medications but also give them the other benefits of natural remedies! Natural remedies can manage the core issue without the negative aspects of some prescription medications, while also offering other long term benefits with regular use.
CBD For Dogs
CBD is quickly becoming one of the more popular alternatives to prescription medication for dogs. It has an abundance of positive health benefits with little to no negative side effects. It's one of the active compounds found in hemp and is usually administered in a fairly raw form. This way, you know that your dog is only getting the best.
CBD products work by stimulating your dog's ECS system. This is the system responsible for regulating your pet's sleep, appetite, mood, and pain receptors throughout their body. CBD promotes homeostasis throughout the system, making it a simple solution for less severe health conditions. It can also be used as a general health booster. Dogs naturally have a high tolerance to this compound, so there's hardly any risk of side effects and virtually no long term consequences.
CBD helps dogs with arthritis by blocking the pain receptors in your pet's ECS system from activating. This greatly reduces the levels of pain your arthritic dog has to go through on a daily basis. CBD also naturally manages your dog's inflammatory responses, reducing the pain and advancement of your pet's arthritis. All in all, it's one of the safest and best ways to manage the symptoms of your dog's arthritis. Before giving your dog CBD, be sure to consult with your local holistic vet to see if it's right for your pet.
Exercise & Diet
As a result, it's important to keep both of these factors strictly regulated to keep your dog feeling fit and young. When it comes to exercise, it needs to be gentle and consistent. Intensive exercises could further damage your dog's joints, so stick to slower paced routines that will still get them up and moving. Short walks and gentle playing are great ways to go.
You can also do low-impact exercises, like swimming, to prevent any further damage from occurring to your dog's joints. Keep in mind, though, that the more advanced your dog's arthritis is, the less likely that they will be able to benefit from exercise.One of the most important health considerations for dogs with arthritis is their exercise and diet. These will each play a key role in keeping your dog active and pain-free, as well as reducing the speed that arthritis develops. Cases of arthritis are often caused by long-term obesity in pets due to the strain that the extra weight puts on their joints. Not only that but because arthritis reduces your dog's motivation to move, they become even more likely to put on weight after they develop this disease.
Diet is super important as well. If you're concerned about your dog's weight, talk to your vet and come up with a diet strategy for your pet that's designed to help them lose weight.
While it may seem strange, massages for dogs can be a great way to alleviate the pain associated with arthritis. Even though arthritis is located in the joints, it can affect the surrounding muscle in a pretty noticeable way. For one thing, inflammation can cause muscles to stiffen, and feel sore. Not only that, but the lack of normal movement can also lead to muscles atrophying and further stiffening.
Massage helps to loosen muscles back up and refresh the blood flow to stiff areas. This helps carry the inflammatory enzymes away and replenishes the nutrients your dog's muscles need. And besides, massages just feel good, whether they're happening to us or our dogs. A massage can be a nice break for your pet from all of the stress and pain that comes along with arthritis.
Glucosamine & Other Supplements
Can You Prevent Arthritis in Dogs?Alongside CBD Oil for dogs and CBD Treats, there is a whole host of supplements out there that can be used to naturally help manage the symptoms of arthritis. Glucosamine is one of the most popular out there, and for good reason. It's a naturally-sourced supplement that helps rebuild the cartilage and replenish the synovial fluid in your pet's joints. In essence, reversing the effects of arthritis. There is even some research to suggest it may have a preventative effect on arthritis, though this is still debated.
Before trying any supplements to help your dog's arthritis, be sure to speak to your vet about your options. Every dog will react differently to different supplements, so the results may vary. On top of this, giving your dog multiple medications should never be done without a vet's consultation. So if your pet is already on prescribed medication for arthritis, be sure to check in with your vet before introducing them to another.
Unfortunately, there's no definitive way to prevent arthritis. Because the symptoms are so varied and broad, you could spend all of your time trying to prevent the development of arthritis in one area while it's unknowingly taking shape in another. That said, there are things you can do to at least improve your dog's chances of preventing arthritis. And even if these methods don't work, they'll offset the severity of your dog's arthritis at the very least.
The two most effective ways of preventing arthritis are exercise and a healthy diet. Keeping your dog's joints strong and mobile, while also managing their weight within a healthy limit, will help their joints work as they are intended. Just keep in mind that intensive exercise on a regular basis can actually damage your dog's joints, so be sure to stick to the basics.
Preventing joint injury is another great to reduce the chances of your dog developing arthritis. Always transport your dog safely, keep them properly restrained when needed, and make sure that their primary environment is a safe one. Jumping from high heights is one of the fastest ways to cause long term damage to one or more of your dog's joints.
Arthritis is an extremely common and unfortunate reality for many of our beloved pets. Fortunately, thanks to modern medicine and abundant research, there are plenty of ways to manage the issue and keep your dog happy and healthy. If your pet is taking traditional medications for their arthritis, consider switching to a more natural alternative, like CBD for dogs, CBD Dog Treats, CBD Capsules, CBD Topical Balms, and other vitamins and supplements.
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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