If your dog is suffering from arthritis, you are probably aware that there is a lot of information out there. A quick Google search for “arthritis in dogs” produces a whopping 63 million results in under a second!
This is no surprise, as dog arthritis is one of the most common conditions affecting our pets. It is estimated that 20-25% of the dog population suffers from arthritis. With approximately 78 million dogs in the U.S. (according to the ASPCA), that’s about 15-19 million dogs in America that face the pain of arthritis daily.
As a concerned pet parent, it can be daunting to try to sift through the overwhelming amount of information on dog arthritis out there, much of which may or may not be credible.
TopDog Health is here to help. We’ve done some research to see what the most searched questions and phrases about dog arthritis are, so we can provide you with accurate information and action-oriented tips to help your pup.
Here are your top 5 questions about dog arthritis, answered.
1. Symptoms of Dog Arthritis?
Before you take action to treat your dog’s arthritis, it’s important to be confident that arthritis is, in fact, what they’re suffering from. Symptoms to look for include:
- Limping or favoring one or more limbs
- Reluctance to stand up or go on walks
- General slowing down
- Stiffness/slowness (especially after resting)
- Changes in how your dog sits
- Tendency to sleep more
- Muscle atrophy (wasting away)
If you notice these symptoms in your dog, especially if they’re older, arthritis is likely to blame. The next step is to take your pup to the veterinarian, who can provide a more definitive diagnosis. Which brings us to our next question…
2. How to Diagnose Dog Arthritis?
Luckily, dog arthritis is not particularly difficult for veterinarians to diagnose. First they will perform a thorough physical examination, paying particular attention to the limbs, back, and joints – looking for swelling, heat, and signs of discomfort. Next they may take blood and urine samples to check for signs of inflammation and infection. X-rays will also likely be performed, which are very effective in assessing arthritis. They can show changes in the joint capsules, thickening of soft tissue, narrowing of joint spaces, joint effusion (fluid build-up), cartilage and/or bone changes, mineralization of soft tissues, and other physical changes associated with arthritis.
3. Can Dog Arthritis Be Cured?
Unfortunately in terms of prognosis, the cut-and-dried answer to this questions is no. But the good news is that there are several steps you can take to control further deterioration and alleviate your dog’s arthritis pain to help them live full, happy lives (stay tuned for Question 4…).
The reason dog arthritis can’t be completely cured is that once the cartilage in your dog’s joint/s has been damaged, it is rare that it’s able to fully repair itself again. Let’s explain this a little more by looking into what arthritis actually is.
In a nutshell, arthritis means joint inflammation. There are many different types of arthritis, but the most common in canines (and humans) is osteoarthritis, aka degenerative joint disease, which is the deterioration of cartilage within the joints. In normal joints, bone surfaces are covered with a thin layer of cartilage, lubricated with joint fluid that allows the two surfaces to glide freely over one another as your dog moves with minimum friction. In dogs with arthritis, cartilage becomes damaged and thins, resulting in the bone surfaces rubbing together and causing your pup pain and stiffness. Furthermore, as a result of this increased friction, new bone starts to form around the joint, which limits its movement even more.
If this process has already occurred, it’s not able to be reversed. But there are still several things you can do to help your dog…
4. How to Help a Dog with Arthritis?
If you take your dog to the typical veterinarian for arthritis treatment, they will likely prescribe some form of painkiller and anti-inflammatory drug. While these have their benefits, they also can have serious negative side effects and have the potential to actually do more harm than good.
At TopDog Health, we’ve seen time and time again in countless patients the world of healing that can come from natural treatments. Here are our favorite ways to help your arthritic dog get relief from pain and discomfort, without any scary side effects.
Stretching is a simple (and free!) practice you can do with your pet right in the comfort of your own home to help minimize their joint pain and increase their mobility. Learn how to do our top 3 stretches for arthritic dogs here.
Natural Joint Supplements:
Before turning to synthetic painkillers, look for a canine joint supplement that has all-natural ingredients to treat their arthritis safely and effectively. Countless TopDog patients have had success with our GlycanAid-HA Advanced Joint Health Formula, which includes a powerful blend of 7 all-natural, highest-quality active ingredients to relieve your pup’s joint pain, improve mobility, and support healthy cartilage and strong bones.
Nature has a host of natural anti-inflammatory foods that combat the inflammation in an arthritic dog’s joints, helping minimize pain and slow the progression of the disease. Unfortunately, the mostly processed diets we tend to feed our dogs don’t take advantage of this healing potential. Try supplementing some beneficial whole foods with these 5 natural recipes to help your arthritic dog.
We can’t stress this one enough. When your dog is overweight (as a shocking 54% of U.S. dogs are, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention), it puts extra strain on their already challenged arthritic joints. It’s essential for their health and happiness to help them slim down – try these 7 tips to getting your dog to a perfect weight.
This one may seem counterintuitive, as it can appear as if any movement or activity (even going up stairs or hopping in the car) causes your arthritic pup discomfort. But it’s important to strike a balance between rest and activity: too much activity can cause pain, while too little compounds the disease. Here’s our do’s and don’ts for exercising an arthritic dog.
Massage is an easy and effective way to relieve pain in your arthritic dog by helping to release tension in their muscles and joints. Plus, it’s a great way to bond with your pup. Here’s how to do a step-by-step daily “maintenance” massage.
We’re delighted to see that in recent years, alternative, non-invasive treatments like hydrotherapy and acupuncture are growing in popularity as a way to relieve pain in arthritic dogs. If you’re still on the fence, here’s everything you need to know about acupuncture for dogs.
5. Can You Walk a Dog with Arthritis?
The final question we saw asked time and time again is if you can walk a dog with arthritis. Our guess as to why so many concerned pet parents want to know is because it’s hard for them to see their older dog (who has literally jumped for joy at the prospect of a walk his whole life) start to seem reluctant to go.
Luckily, the answer is yes, you can certainly walk your arthritic dog. In fact, consistent short leash walks are actually beneficial, helping them to keep up their muscle mass, keep off excess weight, and improve range of motion. However, there are some things to keep in mind:
- Opt for shorter walks throughout the day, instead of one long marathon walk.
- Don’t push it. If you start to notice signs of discomfort in your dog, turn around.
- Go slow, avoiding running or jumping. Keep them on-leash so you can control the pace.
It’s clear that even though there is no miracle cure for canine arthritis, you have several options to reduce your pup’s pain and improve their quality of life. Just because their getting older, slower, and stiffer doesn’t mean that should prevent you from doing the things you both love to do.