As dogs reach a ripe old age, the cartilage cells that surround their joints begin to thin and die. As these cells die, they produce enzymes that cause inflammation in the joints and produce small bony outgrowths called osteophytes. On the other hand, arthritis is also the consequence of chronic low-grade inflammation caused by poor diet, lack of exercise, drugs, and over-vaccination. Chronic inflammation is often the culprit behind most degenerative and inflammatory diseases, even for dogs.
Aches and pains are inevitable as animals age, but the pain caused by arthritis is on a different level. Arthritis is an irreversible condition with no cure; thereby, ongoing management must be implemented to ease the pain and make your dog as mobile as possible. So, how can you tell if your dog is already suffering from arthritis?
How To Tell If Your Dog has Arthritis
Arthritis in dogs causes inflammation and pain in the backbone, elbows, hips, and knees. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that particularly affects senior and obese dogs, as well as large breeds such as Mastiffs, Great Danes, and Labrador retrievers who also have a tendency to develop arthritis at an earlier age. Nonetheless, smaller dogs are also at risk and may develop following a minor accident.
If you notice your dog suddenly crying when he moves, he is letting you know that he is in pain. He may also whine or become irritable when you touch him. However, arthritis progresses slowly and many dogs try their best to cope with the pain. Since not all dogs vocalize their pain, look out for other signs as well.
Any behavior that is out of your dog’s character such as a decreased appetite is a sign that he needs help. Dogs don’t like to eat when they are hurting. He may also bark less since barking becomes too much of a trouble for him. Likewise, a dog struggling with arthritis tries out different sleeping positions just to make himself comfortable.
Difficulty Moving and Sustained Inactivity
Activities that were once second to nature such as galloping and running across the yard become an effort when your dog suffers from arthritis. Dogs with arthritis lack flexibility and experience mild to severe pain; hence, they opt-out of moving from their beds. Sometimes, dogs with arthritis may find themselves limping and trembling as they move.
Fatigue and Intolerance to Cold
Cold temperatures aggravate pain caused by inflammation; as a result, dogs suffering from arthritis seek out warmer areas of the house to sleep. Sadly, dogs with arthritis still find it hard to sleep because of the pain.
Abnormal Bone Outgrowths
As arthritis progress, osteophytes become more recognizable and your dog’s joints become markedly stiff.
To prevent misdiagnosis, the best way to determine if your dog has arthritis (or if the pain is caused by another underlying condition) is to consult a veterinarian. The veterinarian will perform a bone density test and X-rays to reveal whether there are changes in bone contour.
How to Help Your Dog with Arthritis
In spite of the advances in veterinary medicine, there is still no magic bullet for arthritis in dogs. Using anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids is rarely an effective method. Though arthritis remains incurable for now, there are several ways that can greatly improve the comfort and well-being of your beloved canine.
Reform Your Dog’s Diet
Fats, which are among the vital components of your dog’s diet, affect every cell within the body. Choose foods with the right balance of omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 triggers inflammation (as a counteraction against foreign bodies or an ailment), while omega-3 reduces it. With the right balance, these essential fatty acids regulate your dog’s hormone levels and help promote his immune system.
Eliminate processed grain-based foods containing food additives and preservatives. To prevent further inflammation, your dog must only eat meat from grass-fed animals. Factory-farmed animals are fed with grains, which makes them high in omega-6 but low in omega-3. Fish would be ideal as well.
Moreover, adding bits of wild berries and herbs such as basil, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, and parsley into your dog’s food also provides him with the antioxidants he needs. Antioxidants prevent free radical damage and help deter the aging effects.
Maintaining your dog’s mobility is crucial regardless of his age and the extent of his arthritis. Affected dogs can actually cope with arthritis better with consistent exercise. Hydrotherapy or swimming provides the physical activity that is appropriate to your dog’s current ability. It helps build up your dog’s strength and stamina without his joints having to bear any weight. Most importantly, it is a fun activity where you can bond with your old pal.
Provide Your Dog an Orthopedic Bed
Orthopedic dog beds feature memory foam technology that is exceedingly beneficial for dogs with arthritis. Such a bed molds to your dog’s shape and allows your dog’s weight to distribute evenly across the bed and thus relieving pressure on the joints.
As its name suggests, memory foam memorizes or retains the contour that your dog creates as he sleeps. This enables him to stick to his favorite sleeping position instead of trying out different positions to compensate for the pain. Likewise, orthopedic beds regulate temperature, thus allowing your dog to stay snug and toasty. Heat soothes tired muscles and helps alleviate pain caused by inflammation.
In addition, placing your orthopedic bed on non-skid or carpeted floors would be best.
There is no magic bullet for arthritis but your good ole furry pal can still lead an active, blissful life by your side. Aging is inevitable, but enduring the pain is preventable. Fortunately, you don’t have to bet your money on NSAIDS, food supplements, or therapies that may or may not work. Complementary therapies such as acupuncture can be helpful, but it is not a viable option if you cannot keep up with the costs. All you need is a combination of easy and effective steps mentioned above. Therefore, don’t waste another minute or vain effort. Schedule visits to your vet now, revamp your dog’s diet and make sure he has his new orthopedic bed.