What is arthritis in dogs?

Arthritis in dogs is simply the inflammation of a joint. Unfortunately, 1 in 5 dogs experience this unavoidable joint disease. It is an uncomfortable experience for dogs and can be disruptive to their daily lives and routines. Arthritis can affect a dog’s hips, elbows, lower back, knees and wrists. 

What should a healthy joint look like?
A healthy dog joint has a layer of smooth cartilage covering the surface of the joint. It is lubricated with a small amount of joint fluid which allows the two surfaces to glide freely over one another with minimal friction. 

In dogs with arthritis, cartilage which may have worn down or been damaged over time. This makes it less smooth causing bones to run together, resulting in a dogs discomfort or pain as well as further damage to the cartilage. 

What are the signs and symptoms of arthritis in dogs?

The most common and visible symptoms of arthritis in dogs is limping and stiffness in the joints. These are easy to spot if you know what ‘normal’ physicality in your dog is.

Other signs may include the following:

  • Unwilling to exercise
  • Difficulty getting up after lying down
  • Lameness in one or more legs
  • Aggression toward humans or other dogs
  • Tiredness
  • Disinterest in jumping and running
  • Difficulty climbing stairs
  • Playing less
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritation when touched or petted
  • Depression
  • House soiling
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Behavioural changes

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, take them to your vet right away. There they can do a thorough examination and rule out any other issues before diagnosing your dog with arthritis. They may want to perform x-rays to determine this.

What causes arthritis?

While age is the most common risk factor for developing arthritis in dogs, there are other factors that can make our furry friends more susceptible to this painful joint disease. 

These include:

  • Larger breeds of dogs are more prone to arthritis but doesn’t exclude smaller breeds
  • Being overweight, causing more stress on the joints
  • Hereditary or genetic factors
  • Joint trauma in early life (or repeated trauma to the joints)
  • Abnormal joint development
  • Bacterial infections ( this can lead to chronic degenerative joint disease)
  • Immune system irregularities
  • Lyme disease (and other tick-borne illnesses)

You’re probably wondering how well a dog can live with a joint disease like arthritis. Truth is, if left untreated, arthritis can be very uncomfortable for a dog. With the correct treatment, it is manageable and most dogs can live a normal life expectancy. 

Treatment for arthritis in dogs

There are multiple ways in which you can manage arthritis in your dog. 

  • Managing your dog’s weight is a huge factor when it comes to looking after their joints. This helps to decrease further stress added to your dog’s joints. If you have a dog that is overweight, consider a change to their diet and exercise routine.
  • Diets high in Omega 3 fatty acids have shown success in decreasing joint inflammation. 
  • Exercise, though can be uncomfortable for your dog with arthritis, can help to loosen up stiffness. It is important to keep them moving.
  • Other options to explore can be rehabilitation programmes, massages, cold and heat therapy and acupuncture. 

The most popular treatment for arthritis in dogs is medications and/or supplements. Many vets will prescribe injections to relieve pain and improve mobility. Some may recommend other forms of medication. 

Many dog owners prefer to use supplements. Why? Because they are cheaper, easier to administer and more comfortable for a dog. These dietary supplements known as nutraceuticals are an effective way to relieve pain and improve mobility.

Typically, nutraceuticals will include Glucosamine and Chondroitin which are elements naturally occurring in joint cartilage. MSM is a powerful anti-inflammatory element which should also be considered. These kinds of supplements are used promote joint health (i.e. they can be used as preventative measures) as well as decreasing further development of joint damage where arthritis is present. 

Unfortunately, arthritis cannot be cured. Once joints have been damaged, it is very unlikely that they will make a full recovery. The good news is that we have many treatments out there that ensure your dog will live a pain free and active life, regardless of the joint disease. Be sure to explore your options and find what works best for you and your best friend.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I help my dog with arthritis?
    There are many ways you can help your arthritic dog. Look at factors such as exercise, weight management, diet, medications or supplements.

    Consider diet changes if your dog is overweight, are they overly active or not active enough? There are also many forms of medications, injections or supplements available.

    Take a visit to see your vet – there you can receive the best advice on how to help your dog.

  • Does arthritis shorten a dog's life?
    Arthritis can be an uncomfortable disease for your dog to experience. While arthritis itself does not necessarily shorten a dog’s life, it could lead to other issues which may, (i.e. if your dog becomes overweight as a result, this can cause multiple issues).

    Many dogs, with the correct treatment, go on to live a normal and happy lifespan despite the disease. 

  • What are the symptoms of arthritis in dogs?
    The most noticeable visible symptoms in a dog with arthritis are limping and stiffness in the joints. There are plenty of other signs to look out for though such as tiredness, unwillingness to exercise or play, difficulty climbing stairs, unusual aggression, behavioural changes and difficulty getting up after lying down – to name a few!

  • What can I give my dog for arthritis pain natural?
    There are plenty of supplements that include elements which are naturally occurring in joints. Active ingredients such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin are substances which are naturally produced by a human and a dog’s body – using supplements containing these will build those elements in the body back up. 

  • Should you walk a dog with arthritis?
    A minute or two of walking or gentle playing before initiating low-impact exercise activities will help pets with arthritis move easier. It also helps reduce sprains, cramps and muscle injuries as well as gradually increases their heart rate.

  • How do I know if my dog is in pain from arthritis?
    They will tell you! Okay, so not directly but watch out for the signs and symptoms. They may be limping, having difficulty walking, climbing, getting up, etc. Are they showing signs of unwillingness to exercise or play? These are all signs that your dog may be in pain.

  • Should you exercise dogs with arthritis?
    Before going too wild with exercise in an arthritic dog, consult your vet. They may advise against too much too soon or may give you the all clear.
Typically, low impact exercise is better than no or vigorous exercise. Activities such as swimming may be a good idea! This will loosen up any stiff joints.If you have a dog showing any signs of arthritis, be sure to consult your vet as soon as possible. Remember to be proactive and take preventative measures to ensure your dog never has to experience pain related to their joints.

For more information and a powerful solution to arthritis, visit us at https://petzpark.com.au/

You can also connect with us on Facebook (Petz Park) where we can answer any questions or concerns that you may have. We are happy to help!