When dogs get older, they may start to show signs of their age. These signs can include less energy for walks and playing, weight gain and joint problems such as arthritis.
In this article, James Wellbeloved looks into arthritis in dogs and how pet owners can care for their pets suffering from joint problems.
WHAT IS ARTHRITIS?
Arthritis is a joint condition where joints become inflamed. Cartilage within the joints becomes worn or damaged and subsequently the surface of the bones rub together. This can become painful for the dog as the joints swell. Over time, arthritic joints become thicker due to extra bone growth, which causes joint stiffness, making movement more difficult.
Arthritis in dogs can be caused by a couple of factors, including general wear and tear through age, genetic bone or joint problems, and being overweight or unfit. Signs that your dog may have arthritis include:
- Joint stiffness
- Limping/difficulty walking
- Slowing down
- Spending more time lying down
- Licking painful joints
However, as dogs are stoic animals and tend to hide any discomfort, it may be difficult to tell whether your pet is in pain or not. Keep a close eye on your dog’s joints and ease of movement as they get older and always take them to see a vet if you are concerned about their health. A vet will be able to diagnose arthritis by looking at your pet’s health history and conducting a physical assessment.
Once a dog has arthritis, there is unfortunately no cure, but the symptoms can be managed with care.
CARING FOR DOGS WITH ARTHRITIS
There are several ways you can care for dogs with arthritis. Firstly, if the arthritis is due to the dog being overweight, weight loss and exercise can really help. Take a look at your dog’s diet – are they overeating? If you’re not sure how much your dog should be eating, you can take a look at our handy guide. You can also regularly body score your dog – if you are unsure how to do this, ask your vet for advice.
Feeding your dog a high-quality dog food will give them all the right nutrients they need for healthy joints. James Wellbeloved senior dog food contains a blend of taurine, glucosamine, chondroitin and herbs to help protect the heart and joints, perfect for dogs aged seven and over.
Secondly, you should be sure to regularly take your dog for walks to keep their joints supple and healthy. This is especially important to help overweight dogs lose some weight and take the pressure off their joints. If your dog has arthritis, you do not need to stop walking them altogether, but you can reduce the length of the walks. To help protect their joints, make sure that they do not run, jump or play over-energetically.
Dogs with arthritis may wish to spend more time sleeping or relaxing. To ensure that your dog is as cosy as possible, check that they have a comfy bed to lie in to take the pressure off their joints. You may also want to purchase a heat pad to ease their joints in cold weather. Similarly, if your dog gets wet, take time to dry them off with a towel to avoid them getting cold.
Finally, to prevent your dog from losing their footing on slippery floors, use carpets, rugs or mats to help them get around the house. If your dog likes to go upstairs or needs to get in and out of the car, you can use ramps to help them.
If your dog’s arthritis is particularly bad, a vet will be able to offer expert advice on how best to manage the disease. Your dog may need some medical treatment or special exercise such as hydrotherapy. Although arthritis is a lifelong condition, you can help your dog to live a happy and healthy life with the care and techniques mentioned in this article.