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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: A Primer

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: A Primer
Identify Signs of Osteoarthritis in Dogs As our dogs age, the wear and tear of all the runs in the park, jumping for frisbees, and other physical activities that make our dogs so wonderful, begins to rear its ugly head.  The once energetic canine family member starts having a harder time getting up stairs and it just seems difficult for them to get around.  These are signs of degenerative joint diseases, such as osteoarthritis, which may develop and cause severe joint pain for your pup. A study in 2007 reported that across all breeds, the rate of osteoarthritis found in dogs was 20%. The rates of osteoarthritis in dogs can be much higher in large and giant dog breeds and the working breeds.  Yes, even the little corgi has an elevated risk of osteoarthritis. Issues with dog joint health can be hard to manage as an owner, so it is important to recognize the signs and do what you can to help your furry friend feel their best. Dog Arthritis Symptoms The below are symptoms that you should watch for to determine if your dog is suffering from osteoarthritis:
  • A noticeable decrease in activity
  • Stiffness, limping, or favoring a limb
  • Clear difficulty getting up, particularly after sleep or resting
  • Reluctance to walk, jump, play, climb stairs etc.
  • Shows signs of pain or soreness
  • Partial or complete inability to walk
  • Acting aggressive or withdrawn
What can you do to help manage your dog’s osteoarthritis? Osteoarthritis in dogs can obviously cause severe pain, however there are ways to keep the pain minimal and help to manage the symptoms. Below are a few simple adjustments you can make to your home and your dog’s routine to alleviate pain and keep them feeling strong.
  • Follow a manageable diet & exercise plan. The more weight your dog carries, the harder it is on their joints, so it is important to keep them slim and moving as much as possible to keep their muscles from getting too stiff.
  • Make sure they have a comfortable place in your home. Ensure they have a warm, comfortable bed or place to relax and sleep. Cold temperatures can increase dog joint pain, so keeping it warm is key.
  • Learn gentle massage techniques. Your vet will likely be able to provide you with some guidance to administer a gentle massage to relax stiff muscles and help improve motion.
  • Make adjustments around the home to ensure their routine is as easy and pain-free as possible. Anything to keep them from having to jump, bend over, or move in uncomfortable ways will protect them from further agitation (easy to install ramps, adjusting the height of their food and water bowls, etc.)
Outside of these routine adjustments, you may still be looking for some sort of supplement and likely find yourself searching – “what can I give my dog for joint health”? Veterinary medicine offers various treatments ranging from massage and acupuncture, to nutritional supplements, to pharmaceutical products.  By working with your veterinarian you can make things a little more comfortable for your aging dog.