Much like humans, dogs can suffer from arthritis. In fact, arthritis affects around 20% of dogs, and of those, 44% are overweight.
This teaches us a pretty harsh lesson: As much as our dog is giving us the sweetest looks and will give us the biggest cuddle if we give in, we risk causing it severe pain in the not-so-distant future by overindulging them.
What to Look Out For
Arthritis or osteoarthritis can affect any joints in dogs but is particularly common in hips, knees and elbows.
As pet owners, we have to remember that our furry friends can’t always tell us when they’re in pain; we need to notice differences in their movement, behavior and personality. Typical symptoms of arthritis will include stiffness, resulting in difficulty rising. Especially when getting up in the morning, they may have problems climbing stairs and can also lag behind during walks.
If you notice those warning signs, always take your dog to the veterinarian so he or she can investigate further.
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A lot of the time osteoarthritis can’t be prevented; instead, you can help change the lifestyle of your dog to keep it free from pain and leading a long and happy life.
Arthritis can be genetic or a result of aging, which as we know can’t be combated. But things like weight gain and accidents can contribute to its development and worsen the symptoms.
The extra weight can result in an added strain on joints, which leads to arthritic changes. An overweight dog will also be in pain, as the excess fat will release hormones that can encourage inflammation around joints. This is why it’s important to keep our dogs lean and healthy by regular exercise and a well-balanced diet. Not only do pups love a good run-around; you’re also potentially saving them from aches and pains when the dogs get older.
- Diet: If your dog is already suffering from arthritis, keep a sharp eye on his weight. If you find that your dog is overweight, then diets are available that will allow your dog to become more lean, easing pressure on his joints and reducing inflammation and pain.
- Medication: There is a variety of medication available to reduce inflammation and protect the cartilage around the joints. The medication that is right for your dog will be suggested by your vet, and it’s important to follow this guidance; incorrect medication can be potentially fatal. Although arthritis is incurable, the right medication can make an enormous difference to your dog’s quality of life. Certain herbal treatments for arthritis may be somewhat effective.
- Exercise: Although your dog may not want a five-mile run, a little exercise a couple of times throughout the day will help keep joints supple. A 10-minute walk can make all the difference to your dog’s joints, so keep it up!
- Hydrotherapy: This is a safe and effective way in which your dog (cats too!) can exercise without putting stress on painful joints caused by arthritis. It increases the range of movement within the joints too, relieving pain and stiffness in a really fun environment for your dog.
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Dogs provide us with hours of fun, love and affection and it’s imperative we return the favor when they begin to struggle. Avoiding stairs and steep rises will keep joint inflammation down as well as helping your canine compatriot to maintain a healthy lifestyle too. Gently increasing the amount of exercise your dog can do should keep the joint swelling down as well as keeping your dog’s weight under control.
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This featured contribution was written by Sarah MacLeod, a keen animal enthusiast and dog owner who works on behalf of Pet Health Info, a free online pet health-care resource.