Arthritis In Dogs – 7 Common Signs, Symptoms & Treatment Options
Every dog parent should have canine arthritis on their radar.
Joint disease is one of the most common medical complications seen in senior furry friends, with osteoarthritis being one of the leading causes of joint pain.
While arthritis may not be life threatening in itself, it can deeply impact a dog’s quality of life as they age.
So what is canine arthritis, and how can you best support your dog with this condition?
The Role Of The Canine Joint
The canine joints play a critical role in normal movement.
Joints are the junction that connects two different bones in a dog’s limb, allowing their limbs to move freely with each step.
Not only do joints help their limbs move with ease, but they also play a major role in the preservation of bones.
In a healthy dog joint, the joint is surrounded by fibrous tissue. The joints are also covered in cartilage that wraps around the end of the bone, offering added protection to this critical junction.
These structures not only support the joints with each movement, but they allow for proper shock absorption.
When a dog develops canine arthritis, they begin to feel the impact of a failing system.
What Is Arthritis In Dogs?
With the canine joint playing such a vital role in movement, you can begin to understand how much of an impact arthritis has on a dog.
Arthritis is the degeneration or inflammation of the canine joint, causing the cartilage within the joint to become brittle over time.
Not only can this be extremely painful for the dog affected, but it can make it extremely challenging to carry out normal tasks.
The cartilage in a dog’s joint acts as a cushion each time they take a step. When the cushion between the connecting bones becomes brittle over time, this increases the risk of damage to the connecting bones.
The ends of the bone can begin to rub together, causing even more inflammation in an already irritated joint.
Not only can the bones begin to rub together, but the healthy joint fluid produced in the cartilage will decrease as well.
Without this necessary lubrication of the joint, boney formations can begin to form in the area. When this happens, an already stiff joint will become even more limited.
Inflammation is not only painful for a dog, but it can lead to a devastating cycle of destruction.
The longer the inflammation is present in a joint without medical intervention, the more damage you can expect to see down the line.
How Does Arthritis Impact A Dog’s Quality Of Life?
Arthritis has the ability to impact a dog’s comfort and happiness each day.
Arthritis may not be considered life threatening in itself, but the pain and mobility issues that come along with the condition can be.
The impact of canine arthritis leads many owners to make a quality of life decision, showing just how important it is to manage this condition early on.
The joint deterioration that occurs in canine arthritis is challenging to get ahead of when it is not diagnosed early on, leading to a vicious cycle of discomfort for our aging canine friends.
Dogs with joint disease may shy away from activities they once loved, find difficulty getting up each morning, and even struggle to find the happy demeanor they once sported.
Having an understanding of this degenerative joint condition is essential for offering your pup a long and happy life.
If you would like an in depth review on the many aspects of canine arthritis, you can head over to bigbarker.com for their arthritis awareness week.
How Do Dogs Get Arthritis?
Many of us have been told that arthritis is a normal part of canine aging.
While plenty of our senior canine friends will suffer from this joint disease at some point, it is not actually a result of the standard aging process.
Arthritis in dogs develops due to certain lifestyle and environmental factors, or a combination of the many factors listed below.
Obesity is one of the leading causes of arthritis in our furry friends. Excess weight puts an incredible amount of stress on a dog’s joints, leading to significant wear and tear over time.
Not only can obesity lead to the development of arthritis in older age, but it can also further aggravate an already arthritic joint.
Excess weight is the enemy in many ways for our pups, but especially when discussing joint health.
Large breed dogs are more prone to developing arthritis due to their fast growth periods.
Arthritis has become so common in our larger furry friends that many vets will suggest starting these pups on joint supplements as a preventative measure from 1 year of age.
Genetics can play a role in the occurrence of arthritis in some dogs.
Dogs with early onset arthritis or arthritic changes should not be bred, as they can be passing on their susceptibility to the joint disease.
Some breeds are also known to be more at risk than others, with German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers at the top of the list.
Dogs with a history of exposure to strenuous exercise are more at risk of developing arthritis.
Vigorous exercise can put stress on a dog’s joints, leading to the potential of inflammation and cartilage damage.
Once this wear and tear begins, a vicious cycle has often been established for their future with joint health.
This is why many canine athletes have a strict joint care routine.
As we mentioned above, inflammation can be extremely damaging to the joints.
Any previous injury of the limbs can lead to significant inflammation, especially if the injury was to the bone or connective tissue.
Dogs with previous injuries should be monitored closely for any evidence of arthritis as they age.
Other Joint Diseases
Other joint diseases can make a dog more at risk of developing arthritis down the line.
This includes conditions such as hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, or congenital issues.
7 Common Signs Of Arthritis In Dogs
If you are the proud owner of a canine friend, it’s important to be educated on the potential signs of arthritis.
To help you better catch this disease as it develops, let’s discuss 7 of the most common signs of arthritis in dogs below.
1 – Joint Stiffness
Dogs with arthritis will typically develop joint stiffness at some point.
These pups may appear more stiff with each movement, they may have a decreased range of motion, and they may struggle to get into positions they once could.
2 – Changes In Gait
Limping is oftentimes one of the main symptoms listed for canine arthritis, but it’s important to consider changes in gait as a whole.
Some dogs will certainly limp on painful limbs, but others may just experience a change in their normal gait.
This is especially true if all limbs are painful, as they may not favor one in particular.
A change in gait in dogs can include a different stance than usual, leaning to one side, appearing hunched over, and even rigid movement.
3 – Challenges With Activity
Arthritis can make normal activities extremely challenging for a dog to carry out.
Simple activities such as getting up and down each morning can be exhausting, as these pups can experience significant discomfort with each movement.
Dogs with arthritis may have a hard time getting up from a sleeping position, jumping onto furniture, leaning down to eat food, and participating in their usual exercise routine.
4 – Muscle Wasting
Muscle wasting in the hindquarters is very common in dogs with arthritis.
This develops as a result of dogs not using these muscles as often, leading to a significant decline in muscle presence.
5 – Soreness After Activity
Arthritis in dogs can lead to increased soreness after activity.
You may notice abnormal stiffness in your dog’s joints in the days after a strenuous exercise, or even difficulty getting around after a long walk.
This soreness will become more evident as the disease progresses, but you may still notice subtle signs of soreness in the early stages of their joint deterioration.
6 – Changes In Mood
Just like humans, dogs can struggle to cope with chronic pain.
Canine friends with painful arthritis may appear more grumpy than usual, or even snapping at things that would not have bothered them before.
Some dogs may even bite their owners when they are being handled, as arthritic joints can often be painful to the touch.
7 – Swollen Joints
You may notice swelling of the joints in the later stages of canine arthritis.
This can be due to a combination of factors ranging from boney formations around the joint to the presence of severe inflammation.
These dogs will often be painful to the touch, and may snap at you when attempting to touch their feet. A dog growling is also a sign that they are in pain and do not want you to touch them near their joints.
Can You Treat Arthritis In Dogs?
Unfortunately, there is no set cure for arthritis in dogs.
The damage to a dog’s joint is often irreversible, so it’s a matter of managing the condition rather than treating it.
Once your pup is diagnosed with this degenerative joint condition, the plan of action will involve preventing any further joint damage going forward.
Managing arthritis is not a one size fits all approach, so your veterinarian will often rely on a combination of the following treatment options below.
Weight Management & Nutrition
One of the most important aspects of managing arthritis is making sure your pup maintains a healthy weight.
Excess weight will only further complicate their condition, and lead to more joint deterioration as time passes.
Your vet will likely discuss the best ways to keep your pup slim and trim, and may even suggest prescription diets that are created for optimal joint health.
Joint supplements are nutraceutical supplements that are designed to promote joint health.
These supplements can help to relieve inflammation, lubricate the joints, and even slow the progression of their joint deterioration.
Your vet can recommend a prescription joint supplement to be taken daily, or they can offer you advice on the best store bought options available.
Physical therapy is a wonderful way to relieve chronic pain in arthritic dogs.
Physical therapy can help to promote blood flow to injured tissue, as well as strengthening the muscles that have deteriorated due to their condition.
This can include mobility stretching, short walks, hydrotherapy, laser therapy, and even acupuncture. We suggest speaking with your vet about the options available to your pup.
NSAIDs can be used to relieve inflammation in severe cases of canine arthritis.
These medications can be used until their inflammation has resolved, or even during flare ups of pain throughout their condition.
NSAIDs do come with their own risks when being used long term, but your vet will discuss the details based on your dog’s condition.
Dogs with severe arthritis may benefit from the use of daily pain control. This can help to improve a dog’s quality of life, as severe joint deterioration can be extremely difficult for some dogs to cope with.
There are many pain control options available, so your vet will discuss the best option for your furry friend.
Modifying your home to fit your dog’s needs is a wonderful way to relieve your dog’s arthritis pain.
This includes orthopedic dog beds, placing rugs on slick surfaces, raising their food and water bowls, placing ramps in front of furniture, and any other modifications that can help your pup each day.
Canine arthritis is a painful condition that can deeply impact a dog’s quality of life.
Being aware of the possible signs of canine arthritis can help you prepare for this degenerative condition, and potentially allow you to stop the joint disease in its tracks.
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 10 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience I’ve gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! Read more about us here.