Caring for your arthritic dog
As our four-legged companions grow older, they are subject to the same degenerative joint problems as we are. As with humans, there are many things that you as an owner can do to help.
Telltale signs: The first step is noticing there may be a problem. The most common signs of arthritis in dogs include difficulty in climbing stairs, getting up from a seated position and stiffness that is most pronounced in the morning and improves with movement.
Diagnosis: Your veterinarian can assist with confirming the diagnosis. A physical examination will determine whether there are arthritic changes to the joints. X-rays are often used to confirm the suspicion and to rule out other causes of lameness, such as cancer or infection.
Treatment: Post-diagnosis, your veterinarian will advise you how to make your pet more comfortable. The most effective treatment for arthritis is a combination approach involving weight management, exercise and joint care, with medication only as needed.
Diet: Weight loss, rather than medication, is the most effective way to make an arthritic pet feel better. It can make a significant difference to your dog’s comfort and requires no investment other than time. Premium dog food brands like Eukanuba and Iams offer products to facilitate weight loss in overweight dogs. If your dog is obese, weight loss should take place under veterinary control.
Remedies: Many pets respond to physical therapy and acupuncture, which can be used effectively alongside traditional medical treatment. Glucosamine supplements, such as Cosequin and injectable joint-protectors are increasingly popular treatments. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) developed specifically for dogs have been in use for years with good safety records. As with any medication, there is the potential risk of side effects. Veterinarians will generally require blood work both before and during treatment to ensure your pet’s liver and kidneys are not compromised.
With a willingness to try different treatments, the patience to make dietary lifestyle changes and lots of tender loving care, most arthritic dogs can experience relief from their achy joints.