This content was reviewed by veterinarian Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM.
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Michelle noticed that her 10-year-old Lab, Bella, was avoiding stairs and opting for shorter walks. The vet confirmed it was arthritis, and Michelle could no longer deny her rapidly aging pet. Luckily, there were several lifestyle changes and treatment options to consider.
Just like humans, dogs are prone to developing arthritis as they get older. In fact, osteoarthritis affects one in five dogs, which makes it one the most common diagnoses for chronic pain in our pets. What are the signs? And how do you treat this painful and potentially debilitating condition?
Arthritis occurs when a joint or multiple joints have inflammation. This inflammation causes stiffness in the joints and soreness or flat-out pain in affected dogs. There are two main types of arthritis in dogs.
Osteoarthritis (OA) in dogs, also referred to as degenerative joint disease, is typically caused by normal wear and tear. This wear and tear on the joints can be due to such factors as age, body weight, activity level, and genetics. OA is a common problem in older dogs and can be as mild as hearing the click of a knee or as severe as hip dysplasia, a genetic disease.
Large breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers develop OA more frequently than smaller dogs. However, OA can affect any size or breed of dog, particularly if your dog is highly athletic or obese. The more dogs weigh, the greater the pressure on their joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to go into hyperdrive and mistakenly attack healthy tissue, progressively wearing away the cartilage in joints. It’s less common than OA in dogs. This disease affects multiple joints and occurs most often in small, toy, or miniature breeds, typically beginning at five or six years old, but it occasionally affects larger breeds.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis share many of the same symptoms because both conditions involve the degeneration of joints. Here are signs of arthritis in dogs:
- Slow to get up
- Favoring a limb
- Hesitancy in actions that were previously easy (climbing steps, jumping up, running)
- A decrease in activity or play
- Lying down and/or sleeping more frequently
- Dog is reluctant to let you touch his painful joints
- Enlarged lymph nodes (in rheumatoid arthritis)
It’s important to take note when you first see these signs and visit your veterinarian after continued symptoms to get a diagnosis and treatment.
Tip: Remember that dogs are animals, and it’s part of their instinct to not outwardly show pain or weakness that would reveal vulnerability to a predator in the wild. Because dogs don’t display the initial signs of soreness and discomfort, by the time we notice them having difficulty in their stride or ability to get up, arthritic changes in their joints may have progressed significantly.
When you first take your dog to the veterinarian after seeing the symptoms of arthritis, your vet will examine your dog in a few ways to see what might be causing the trouble.
Be prepared to talk with your vet about all the symptoms you’ve observed in your dog’s behavior. Your vet will want to know which symptoms you’ve noticed, when they started, and how severe they are. This discussion will play an important initial role in the diagnostic process and will greatly help your vet to make his or her diagnosis.
Other diagnostic tests include:
- Examination of your pet’s legs to determine which joints are affected.
- X-rays of the affected joint to help confirm (or rule out) the presence of arthritis as the cause of pain or decreased mobility. X-rays can also show how the joints are being affected by arthritis, such as increased joint fluid and a narrowed joint space.
- Blood and urine samples to determine if an infection is the problem with the joint or if other medical issues are causing your dog discomfort.
- A sample of synovial fluid from the affected joints may also be necessary to determine the cause of your dog’s arthritis.
You may want to consider signing up for pet insurance as a proactive measure to lower your financial risk for potential health threats, like arthritis, during your dog’s lifetime. Why? Pet insurance is one of the best things you can do for your dog — not only for the health of your pup but to save you from financial trouble should an accident, illness, or pet emergency arise.
Humans have health insurance, so our furry friends should too. That way, you’ll never have to choose between an expensive treatment and your pet’s suffering or even his life. Pet insurance gives you peace of mind so you can make better and less emotional decisions in the face of a crisis.
Check out our comparison of the top pet insurance companies to learn more.
Claim Reimbursement Story
- Dog: Robbie, 6-year-old male Labrador mix
- Conditions: Soft tissue injuries, Arthritis, Hypothyroid, Growth on face (bacterial)
- Total Vet Cost: $7,949.84
- Total Reimbursed By Trupanion: $6,726.58
You may be wondering, ‘What can I give my dog for arthritis?’ Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to treat your dog’s arthritis including nutritional supplements, medications, complementary therapies, and surgery for severe cases. Whichever you choose, it’s most important to discuss the options with your vet and agree on a plan, which may involve a combination of these treatment options. As with other pet health treatments, don’t take action without first consulting a vet.
Arthritis medicine for dogs is prescribed by your vet to control signs of arthritis, including inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and joint pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are frequently prescribed for managing arthritis in dogs. Some common ones are Rimadyl, Metacam, and Deramaxx. Although we may have human NSAIDs in our medicine cabinets, it’s important to use a vet-prescribed medication and dosage for your dog.
Never give your dog NSAIDS meant for humans. Misuse of human NSAIDs with dogs can have negative side effects on your dog such as gastrointestinal bleeding, gastric ulcers, kidney or liver dysfunction, and even death.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are the most commonly used supplements that help decrease joint inflammation and improve the body’s ability to repair and strengthen tissues.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound made of sugar and an amino acid that’s involved in the body’s natural production of joint lubricants. It’s extracted from crab, lobster, and shrimp shells. Learn more about glucosamine in dogs.
We recommend these NaturVet Glucosamine-DS tablets, which include 500mg of glucosamine per tablet.
Chondroitin sulfate is composed of omega fatty acids, vitamin E, and selenium that work together to help repair damaged joint cartilage and can prevent future breakdown by keeping cartilage hydrated. Some studies show that combining glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can improve the beneficial effects of both.
MSM is a chemical found in plants, animals, and humans that supplies sulfur to the system. Scientists believe that it may create other chemicals in the body. MSM is used to relieve chronic pain and arthritis.
We recommend these Zesty Paws Multivitamin Chews, which include glucosamine, chondroitin, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).
A green-lipped mussel called Perna canaliculus is a sea cucumber that can help minimize pain and provide nutrients that help maintain cartilage.
This VetriScience GlycoFlex 3 Hip and Joint Support supplement includes glucosamine, Perna canaliculus, MSM, and other ingredients.
Exercise, Physical Therapy, And Complementary Therapies
Most vets agree that movement (within your dog’s comfort zone) is good for joint health and mobility. Often, a lack of daily exercise can actually cause joint stiffness and can also lead to weight gain, which puts more stress on your dog’s joints.
Your vet may recommend regular physical therapy, which you can also do at home in between therapy sessions, to reduce joint pain. Regular walks will help to keep your dog at a healthy weight. Remember to consult your vet about the exercise and eating habits that are best for your dog.
Complementary therapies for arthritis include massage, acupuncture, acupressure, laser treatment, water therapy, and chiropractic medicine. CBD oil, an all-natural alternative, may also help reduce inflammation and joint pain.
Tip: CBD is a natural product that may help reduce inflammation and joint pain in humans and pets. We have researched and tested several different dog CBD oils and treats to find the best on the market today. Learn more about CBD’s benefits for dogs.
Sometimes, a dog’s arthritis gets so severe that surgery becomes the best treatment option to relieve the joint pain and inflammation. There are different surgical techniques for treating arthritis, so your vet will decide what type of surgery will be best for your dog.
As arthritis progresses, your dog will likely experience trouble getting around. These tools can help improve your dog’s daily mobility and quality of life.
Have slippery floors in your home? Non-slip dog booties can help with stability on slick hardwood or tiled floors. The Lonsuneer Dog Boots come in five sizes and have an adjustable closure so they don’t slip off of your dog’s paws. They also come in black, blue, and red to fit your dog’s personal style. They’ll keep your dog’s paws cool and dry and help him maneuver through your home like normal.
If your dog is suffering from crippling arthritis in his hips or rear legs, using a pelvic harness/sling is a great way to help your dog with mobility. The vet-recommended Walkabout Back End Harness fits comfortably around your dog’s abdomen and back legs and has a handle for you to lift up his back end. It comes in seven sizes so you can find the best fit.
If your dog’s arthritis is severe, you may want to consider one of these dog wheelchairs to help him get around more easily. However, your dog’s muscles will atrophy (get smaller) much quicker while using a wheelchair, so it is important to use one only after you have talked to your vet about it and when you have already tried other options unsuccessfully.
Although arthritis is common among dogs and can cause them pain, the variety of effective treatments gives us hope that they will be able to jump back up on the couch again, whether you want them there or not. As we mentioned above, CBD oil for dogs is an all-natural remedy that may reduce your dog’s arthritic pain. It’s becoming a popular treatment for a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, joint inflammation, anxiety, digestive issues, and more. Let your vet know if you plan to use CBD to complement your dog’s other arthritis treatments.Tagged With: Aging, Arthritis, Orthopedic, Reviewed By Dr. Pendergrass, DVM