Arthritis is a common health problem in dogs, and it can be very painful. It occurs in the joints, where the cartilage (the lubricating tissue) that lines the ends of the bones is worn away, causing pain and stiffness.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which occurs in older dogs. It is a gradual, progressive condition that causes inflammation of the joint. This leads to damage to the articular cartilage that covers the ends of the bone and a build-up of fluid within the joint.
This can lead to pain, stiffness and limited mobility. There are a variety of treatments that can be used to relieve the pain and manage the disease.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, or NSAIDs, are the most effective first line treatment for arthritis in most cases. They reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins, which cause pain and stiffness.
Other medications include corticosteroids, which can also help to relieve the inflammation and reduce pain in arthritic joints. These drugs are not without side effects, however, and can have negative effects on other body tissues including the liver and kidneys.
Nutrition can play an important role in managing arthritis, as a nutritionally balanced diet can help to support the joints and normalize the dog’s weight and condition. This can often be achieved with a particular diet that includes nutrients such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which can help to strengthen the joints and decrease inflammation.
Exercise is another essential part of managing arthritis, as controlled exercise, such as walking and swimming, can greatly improve the joints’ ability to move and maintain their strength. Ideally, it is best to moderate the intensity of exercise to a level that is tolerated by the patient, and then to increase the frequency of activity over time.
Over-the-counter medications can be a useful tool in managing the pain of arthritis, but it is best to discuss the use of supplements with your veterinarian before using any medication. Some over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, can actually worsen the condition of an arthritic dog by irritating the sensitive membranes of the joints.
Your vet can recommend a special supplement that contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help with joint inflammation, pain and swelling. They may also suggest a supplement that contains omega fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and pain in both humans and pets.
Massage, acupuncture and hydrotherapy are also beneficial in relieving the symptoms of arthritis. They can also be used to help to increase joint flexibility and mobility in some patients.
Pet owners can play a key role in identifying and assessing the signs of arthritis. By understanding the underlying cause of the condition and making appropriate lifestyle changes, most pets can live happy, healthy and active lives.
Symptoms of arthritis in dogs are varied and can be quite painful, so it is best to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. A physical examination and X-rays can be helpful in diagnosing the problem.