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Arch Creek Animal Clinic
Call us today! 305-945-1223
Give us a call today! 305-945-1223

15372 W Dixie Hwy, 
North Miami Beach,
FL 33162

Dog Arthritis 101

January 15 2024

Arthritic joint pain is one of the most common issues that our canine pals face. In fact, up to 80 percent of dogs display at least some signs of arthritis by the time they are eight years old. Arthritis develops when the soft tissues surrounding your dog’s bones begin to wear down, causing stiffness and discomfort. This can significantly impact Fido’s health, happiness, mobility, and quality of life.  Read on to learn more about treating, managing, and reducing arthritis pain in this article from a North Miami Beach, FL veterinarian.

Arthritis in Dogs: What You Need to Know

Canine arthritis shares many similarities with human arthritis, as both occur when the cartilage between joints gradually wears down. In dogs, it typically affects the weight-bearing joints, such as the hips, shoulders, wrists, and knees. That tissue becomes thinner and less elastic over time. That can lead to friction, swelling, and inflammation.  In some cases, this may also result in bone spurs forming and worsening the problem. Needless to say, arthritis is quite painful for poor Fido, and can definitely affect his quality of life.

Is There A Cure For Canine Arthritis? 

Although veterinary medicine has come a long way in recent decades, there is unfortunately no cure for canine arthritis. However, there are ways to soothe your furry best friend’s pain and help him live a long and happy life. 

There are several types of dog arthritis treatment options: it just depends on the type or types of dog arthritis your pooch has. Options include surgery, laser therapy, weight management, supplements, exercise modification, and even massages. Fido may also benefit from medication, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids,  cortisone, or chondroprotectant, which help protect cartilage. Never give your dog any medication without your vet’s recommendation.  Veterinary medicine can be complex and some medications can be toxic to dogs. For a deeper understanding and precise diagnostics, our “Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory” offers comprehensive services to help identify and manage arthritis accurately. Ask your veterinarian for more information. 

What Causes Canine Arthritis? 

The main culprit here is usually simple wear and tear.  However, other things do factor in. Genetics is the biggest one.  Certain breeds also have a higher likelihood of developing arthritis. This includes breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, German Shepherds, Pugs, and Golden Retrievers. Speaking of breeds, if you’re interested in learning about new breeds recognized by the AKC, check out our article on “A New AKC Breed: The Hungarian Mudi“.

Diet is another factor. Fido’s current menu is important, but how he ate in the past may also contribute. For instance, if your pet did not get proper nutrition as a puppy, his risk of osteoarthritis may be increased. If anything goes wrong at that crucial stage, it can lead to later problems. This is especially common in larger breeds. Big dogs go through a massive growth spurt that puts a lot of strain on their joints.

Fido’s lifestyle and doggy workout regimen also play roles. Running and playing takes a toll on your pup’s bones and joints! Overexertion or lack of exercise, as well as some types of exercises, can increase your pup’s chances of developing this condition. Certain activities, like repetitive jumping and standing, can put excessive strain on your pup’s joints, which will only worsen the situation. 

Dogs who have experienced injuries such as broken bones or damaged ligaments are also at a higher risk.  Other factors include infections and autoimmune issues. Ask your vet for more information. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Canine Arthritis?

Fido can’t communicate the fact that he is feeling unwell, so it is important for you to keep a vigilant watch for any warning signals. You may notice limping, stiffness, and discomfort, especially when your canine companion tries to stand up or walk. In the beginning, the limp may subside once Fido starts moving and warms up, but it will gradually worsen over time. 

Other red flags include lethargy, decreased appetite, loss of interest in playing, and reluctance or reduced interest in activities such as jumping, climbing stairs, or getting in and out of the car. Your furry friend may also lose his enthusiasm for chasing squirrels, exploring new places, or even visiting the dog park, and he may appear irritable or sad. Inappropriate elimination is another potential warning sign especially if your pooch needs to use the stairs to go outside.

At What Age Do Dogs Get Arthritis?

Senior dogs are most likely to develop arthritis. However, it may occur at any age. In fact, approximately one in five dogs shows signs of osteoarthritis by the age of one. 

It’s important to remember that dogs don’t all age at the same pace. Big dogs reach their golden years before small ones. For instance, a Saint Bernard may be a senior at just seven, while a Chihuahua may not reach retirement age until ten or even older.

How Fast Does Canine Arthritis Develop? 

In most cases, arthritic pain begins gradually, and will gradually but steadily worsen. Fido may not feel the pain of that cartilage wearing away until it loses its ability to protect his joints. Therefore, the symptoms may get worse suddenly. 

Arthritis Care for Dogs

Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate your canine companion’s discomfort. A proper diet is crucial. You’ll also need to carefully monitor Fido’s body condition. If you notice any weight gain, nip it in the bud.  Joint supplements may also be beneficial.

Make sure that your furry friend is getting appropriate exercise. Your pup’s ideal workout regimen will depend on his age, weight, size, and lifestyle, so ask your vet for recommendations. Keep in mind that you’ll need to adjust a bit as your pet ages. What’s appropriate for a three-year-old may be too much for a ten-year old. 

We also recommend providing a comfortable orthopedic dog bed. In fact, you may even want to consider getting a few. Fido won’t mind having multiple options to choose from. It never hurts to have choices! 

Your North Miami Beach, FL veterinarian can also discuss different treatment methods based on the specific type of arthritis your dog has, and how far it has progressed.

How To Exercise A Dog With Arthritis

This can be a catch 22, as joint pain can limit dogs’ ability to run and play, hindering their enjoyment of activities like playing Fetch. However, it’s important not to let Fido  become inactive. If your pooch isn’t getting enough activity, he’ll start to lose muscle mass. That may just worsen his condition. Plus, it can lead to weight gain. 

Most dogs benefit from daily walks. Swimming can also be a great option, as long as the weather permits and Fido enjoys it. Just be sure to ask your North Miami Beach, FL vet. 

How Can I Keep My Dog From Getting Arthritis?

While there is way to guarantee that your furry friend won’t develop arthritis, proper care can help a lot. A balanced diet and good exercise regimen are crucial. Additionally, carrying excess weight can put strain on your dog’s bones and joints. This is supported by several studies, such as one conducted by the University of Glasgow and Utrecht, which found that weight loss greatly improved mobility and reduced lameness in arthritic dogs. Regular visits to the vet for check-ups and wellness care are also crucial for Fido’s well-being.

Conclusion: Arthritis in dogs is quite common, and can be extremely painful. While the condition can’t be cured, it can be managed. Keep an eye out for warning signs of arthritis, and call your vet immediately.

Our Advice on Dog Arthritis in 2024

How can owners modify their home environment to make it more comfortable and accessible for dogs with arthritis?

To enhance comfort and accessibility for dogs with arthritis, owners should consider several modifications to the home environment. Installing ramps or stairs can help dogs access elevated areas like beds or vehicles without jumping, reducing joint strain. Providing orthopedic dog beds can offer better support for sore joints. It’s also beneficial to keep floors free of clutter and lay down non-slip mats or rugs to prevent falls on slippery surfaces. Elevating food and water dishes can make eating and drinking more comfortable by reducing the need to bend down.

What are the signs that a dog’s arthritis is progressing or worsening?

Signs that a dog’s arthritis is progressing or worsening include an increase in stiffness or limping, especially after rest or during colder weather. Dogs may also exhibit more pronounced difficulty in rising, climbing stairs, or jumping. There may be an increase in pain evident through more vocalizations or reluctance to be touched in affected areas. Additionally, dogs might show decreased interest in walking, playing, or engaging in activities they previously enjoyed. Behavioral changes such as increased irritability or withdrawal can also indicate that the arthritis is intensifying. Regular veterinary assessments can help manage these symptoms effectively.

Are there any specific physical therapy or rehabilitation exercises that can help improve mobility and reduce pain in dogs with arthritis?

Yes, specific physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises can significantly improve mobility and reduce pain in dogs with arthritis. Controlled, low-impact exercises such as underwater treadmill sessions or gentle swimming are highly beneficial, as they allow movement without excessive stress on the joints. Stretching and range-of-motion exercises, performed by a trained therapist or under veterinary guidance, can also help maintain joint function and flexibility. Additionally, targeted strengthening exercises can support the muscles around the joints, thereby improving stability and reducing the burden on arthritic areas. Regular sessions are recommended for optimal results.

How does the severity of a dog’s arthritis impact their expected lifespan?

The severity of a dog’s arthritis can impact its lifespan by influencing mobility, overall health, and quality of life. Severe arthritis can lead to decreased physical activity, which may contribute to other health issues like obesity, heart disease, and decreased muscle mass, potentially shortening a dog’s life. However, with effective management, including proper medication, diet, exercise, and regular veterinary care, many dogs with arthritis can continue to live full lives. The key is early detection and tailored interventions to minimize pain and maintain mobility.

Are there any emerging or experimental treatments for canine arthritis that show promise?

Emerging treatments for canine arthritis that show promise include stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. Stem cell therapy involves using the dog’s own stem cells to help repair damaged tissues and reduce inflammation in the joints. PRP injections use a concentration of the dog’s own platelets to promote healing and decrease inflammation. Additionally, there is ongoing research into new pharmacological options, such as targeted pain relief medications that focus more directly on joint pain and inflammation without extensive side effects. These treatments offer hope for more effective management of arthritis symptoms.

Have you noticed any signs of arthritis in your dog? Contact us, your North Miami Beach, FL veterinary clinic, if you have questions about your dog’s health or care. We’re here for you!