Does Your Dog Have Arthritis?

Lindsey ZimmermanDog Health

Arthritic Dog, Old Dog, Elderly Dog
My dog used to jump up on my bed, happy to lick my face and cover me with kisses first thing in the morning. We could play “fetch” for hours as my dog eagerly lunged for a frisbee or endlessly caught a ball. When I announced “dinner” he used to be at his food bowl in a flash.

As we both have aged, we have slowed down considerably – unfortunately, my dog more so than myself. And like many dogs as they age, he has developed arthritis, an inflammation in his joints and ligaments that make him slow to get up from a prone position and less playful.

The good news is that technology and advances in veterinary medicine have enabled our dogs to live longer. On the flip side, this makes them more susceptible to degenerative joint and ligament diseases like arthritis. If you are a dog owner, it is important to educate yourself about arthritis as your dog ages, so you know what symptoms to look for and how to ease the pain.

What Causes Arthritis in Older Dogs?

There are two main types of joint problems your dog may experience – developmental or degenerative. Developmental problems often occur when a joint does not develop correctly such as in the case of hip dysplasia, common in larger breeds of dogs. Degenerative issues, such as arthritis, usually occur when a joint becomes unstable or simply worn out over time.

Causes of both degenerative and developmental arthritis in dogs may include:

  • Genetics
  • Being overweight
  • Poor diet
  • Joint fractures
  • Ligament, tendon, or muscle disease
  • Dietary and hormonal diseases
  • Cancer
  • Metabolic disorders

What Are The Symptoms To Look For?
The symptoms of arthritis in dogs are usually gradual and include:

  • Limping or favoring one leg
  • Difficulty jumping in or out of a car or going up or downstairs
  • Difficulty getting up once laying down
  • “Hunch” in the back from spinal issues
  • Lameness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Chewing or licking areas that are painful

How Can Dog Arthritis Be Treated?
As with humans, there is no cure for dog arthritis.  It is best to consult your veterinarian to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment options because other conditions could be causing your dog to have symptoms similar to arthritis. Problems that could mimic arthritis include cardiac problems, metabolic disorders, hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease to name a few. Chances are your vet will recommend a multimodal therapy regime, which may include changes in diet and exercise. There are both surgical and non-operative treatments that can help improve your dog’s quality of life.

As a dog owner, there are things you can do to help your dog. For instance, arthritic symptoms often surface more quickly in cold weather, so make sure your dog is as warm as possible. Firm, orthopedic foam beds have been shown to be more comfortable for arthritic dogs. Your vet can also show you how to massage your dog’s muscles to decrease the stiffness and increase the range of motion.

The Help ‘Em Up Harness was designed when our first dog Blue became older and arthritic, lost mobility in her hips and hind legs and didn’t want to be left behind as we hit the trails. I’m confident it can provide your dog with much needed support with a hip and shoulder lift if he/she is suffering from arthritis or other disabilities.