Dogs often cover signs of arthritis until late stages of the disease. Here a few ways to help keep your companion comfortable.
Signs of arthritis in dogs and how to help
Dogs experience many changes as they get older and arthritis is one of most common. Resulting from natural wear and tear to the joints, this disease can impact your pet’s quality of life, so it is important to recognize and manage its symptoms.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones deteriorates, often due to natural rubbing that occurs over the course of a lifetime. This leads to discomfort as the smooth surface the cartilage once provided breaks down and movement of the joints becomes more labored. Though other factors such as injuries, genetics, infections and immune disease can contribute to arthritis, most pets begin to experience symptoms during their senior years. Often, owners do not notice this progression until late in its course, as early stages of arthritis occur within the joint and are invisible to the naked eye. Dogs will shift their weight and posture to adapt to discomfort, making it easy for pet parents to miss physical signs of change until their pets are experiencing significant discomfort.
The most common symptoms of arthritis in dogs include reluctance to walk or play; limping; yelping or showing other signs of pain when touched; abnormal aggression; and licking the affected joints. These become more obvious as the disease progresses, causing your pet increasing levels of discomfort. Though arthritis cannot be cured, the pain associated with it can be managed by recognizing and treating its symptoms. In addition to arranging a check-up with your veterinarian after recognizing the first signs of arthritis to rule out any other causes, you can focus on helping your companion adjust and manage his symptoms.
In early or mild cases of arthritis, some simple adjustments to the home can help reduce the impact of the disease on your pet’s quality of life. Make sure to provide your pet with plenty of soft bedding to help protect his sore joints as he sleeps. If he needs to use any stairs, you can build or buy him a ramp that reduces the need to overextend his joints. Make sure his food and water dishes are in a an easily accessible spot, and give your friend a loving lift when getting in and out of tall vehicles.
Another way to help Fido feel better as he ages is to manage his weight. Extra pounds place an increased burden on his joints, causing more pain and potentially speeding progression of the disease. Though his exercise abilities will change, your pet should continue to move regularly with gentle walks or swimming. Do not engage in games such as fetch that involve rapid bursts of speed that can put undue pressure on your dog’s joints and contribute to further damage. In more progressed cases of arthritis, your veterinarian can offer treatments from physical therapy and prescription diets to pain-managing medication.