If you have an older dog who has started to slow down on walks and has difficulty getting up and down the stairs, arthritis may be the culprit. According to the Arthritis Foundation, one in five dogs suffers from canine arthritis. This disease, most commonly seen in older dogs, can affect the legs, hips, back, and more—making everyday movements painful. However, as a dog owner, you can look out for symptoms of arthritis in dogs, and if your dog is diagnosed, you can work with your veterinarian on the various treatment options available. In doing so, you’ll make sure your senior dog is living the best, most pain-free life possible.
Arthritis in Dogs
If you think your senior dog is in pain and suspect he might have arthritis, the first step to treatment is confirming that he does have this disease. Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer, reminds us that signs of arthritis can include:
- Difficulty or reluctance to stand from a lying position
- Difficulty going up stairs or jumping onto a bed or couch
- Taking a narrow stance in the rear limbs
- Wasting away of muscles in the rear limbs
The most important thing to do, Dr. Klein says, is to take your dog to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can accurately diagnose arthritis in dogs. To make a diagnosis, a veterinarian will conduct a physical examination, talk to you about symptoms, and take radiographs, as needed. If your dog does, indeed, have arthritis, your veterinarian will devise a personalized management plan depending on your dog’s age, metabolic condition, and the severity of the disease.
Treating Arthritis in Dogs
As your veterinarian will explain, there are a variety of different options to treat arthritis in dogs. Your plan may include a combination of management solutions and ultimately will depend on your dog and his specific situation. That being said, these are some of the most common ways to manage arthritis pain in dogs.
Diet and Supplements to Treat Arthritis in Dogs
Your dog’s diet is always of the utmost importance and even more so if your dog has arthritis. Dr. Klein says, “weight management is prime,” for arthritic dogs. Excessive weight causes extra strain on your dog’s body and joints. Although exercise may be difficult, especially if the arthritis is severe, you can work with your veterinarian to find appropriate activities. Additionally, you can pay close attention to his diet.
Make sure you have the right food for your dog and that it meets his nutritional needs. Prescription foods sold by veterinarians might be particularly useful in helping your dog’s arthritis. These foods often contain natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, or Omega fatty acids.
Furthermore, you might want to consider a food containing glucosamine or giving glucosamine or chondroitin as supplements. These sulfates are the building blocks of healthy cartilage and appear to stimulate the body to make more cartilage. Dr. Klein says that studies on glucosamine and chondroitin are conflicting. However, some demonstrate a beneficial effect on arthritis pain.
Medications to Treat Arthritis in Dogs
Your veterinarian may decide to perform a blood test to determine if your dog is eligible for prescription medication, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), to help manage arthritis pain. If your dog is suitable, your veterinarian will work with you on the specifics of dosage and administering the medication. Remember that human NSAIDs, like Ibuprofen or Naproxen, are toxic medications to dogs and should never be given to them for pain relief.
CBD Oil to Treat Arthritis in Dogs
A treatment option that has gained popularity in recent years is using CBD oil to treat arthritis in dogs. In short, CBD is a compound found in cannabis and hemp that some dog owners, as well as humans, find effective in treating a variety of conditions. Some anecdotal reports suggest that CBD oil can help dogs with arthritis pain. However, Dr. Klein reminds us that currently there is no scientific data on the use or benefits of CBD.
Additionally, limited regulation of CBD oil makes it difficult for veterinarians to sign off on its use since there is no way of predicting purity, concentration, efficacy, potential benefits, or side effects. While the unknowns surrounding CBD will change with more research (like this study being conducted by the Canine Health Foundation), at this time, there is no scientific evidence to support the use of CBD oil for canine arthritis or any other ailments. If you’re considering CBD oil as a treatment, make sure to speak to your veterinarian first.
Physical and Alternative Therapy to Treat Arthritis in Dogs
In addition to diet, supplements, and medications, there are also therapy treatment options available to help manage a dog’s arthritis pain. Physical therapy, like appropriate forms of regular exercise, as mentioned earlier can be extremely beneficial for dogs with arthritis. Many owners also find hydrotherapy, or water therapy, helpful.
Holistic therapies, like acupuncture, can be useful as well. Acupressure and targeted pulsed electromagnetic field therapy are other alternative options that may be useful for the treatment of arthritis in dogs.
Arthritis in Dogs: How to Manage Pain
At the end of the day, although an arthritis diagnosis might seem frightening, there are many different methods and strategies available to you to help your dog and manage his pain. Your veterinarian can help you find the right plan based on your dog specifically and answer any questions you may have throughout the process.
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