Dogs, just like other family members, grow older. It seems like it happens in the blink of an eye. One day you’re training your puppy, and the next, you are helping your senior dog climb stairs. Arthritis in older dogs is often the first sign of aging that pet owners notice in their pup.
Also called osteoarthritis, this disease causes the degeneration of your dog’s joints. As well as chronic pain and inflammation that can impact and even alter the lifestyle of your sweet dog. No longer a condition that solely affects humans, arthritis is one of the most common ailments treated by veterinarians. As dogs age, their cartilage deteriorates and they lose flexibility, which can lead to arthritis. Also, trauma, excessive wear on joints and cartilage, and congenital defects contribute to osteoarthritis.
We often don’t think too much about it in younger dogs, but over time repeated explosive rotations where the tibia joint is partially flexed can lead to canine ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury. Just like in humans, this is when your dog runs, planting a leg, and the force of the action carries your dog’s body forward, overextending the ACL. Over time, this can lead to arthritis.
When your pup experiences a dog knee injury, including arthritis, even simple movements like walking can become difficult and painful. Canine knee injuries can cause your dog to limp, shift weight and cause additional trauma to other areas of his/her body, tire easily and become irritable.
What to Look For: Signs of Arthritis in Older Dogs
Some of the more significant signs of arthritis in older dogs to watch out for include:
- Difficulty in Movement: Dogs generally love to play bow, jump up, and energetically prance. However, when they become reluctant to do these things, it likely is because they are protecting themselves from the pain of
- Limping or Stiff Legged Gait: If you find your dog limping, it can also be a sign of arthritis. Generally speaking, this will be more noticeable when your dog wakes up in the morning, and the limping will lessen as s/he moves around. Also, if your dog adopts a ‘mummy’ walk, where they take on a side-to-side shuffle versus a fluid forward gait, it may be a sign of arthritis.
- Abnormal Posture and Spinal Issues: Arthritis is not limited to your dog’s limbs. It can also affect the spine, leading to abnormal posture and lameness on either or both of your dog’s hind legs. Watch for signs that your dog is not standing erect, or if his/her back seems to curve slightly.
- Agitation and/or Avoidance: Just like humans, when dogs don’t feel good, they show it. Watch for behavior changes where your dog becomes agitated or anxious in group settings, or growls when touched. Some dogs will even start to avoid human contact in an effort to protect themselves from potential pain.
- Tiredness: Battling pain is tiring. Dogs are no different in this. Arthritis in older dogs most often starts to cause tiredness, leading to your dog resting or sleeping more than usual.
- Licking: When dogs are in pain, they often lick the injured or aching limb. This is no different than with a canine ACL and/or arthritis.
How to manage arthritis in older dogs
There are four ways that you can truly help your dog to manage arthritis. These are:
- Weight Management: One of the best ways to help manage arthritis in your dog is to feed him/her the appropriate amount of nutrient-rich food. Keep the snacks and empty calories away from your dog. When a pup is overweight, that pressure is placed on the joints, which leads to problems.
- Regular Exercise: Another easy way to manage your dog’s arthritis is through regular gentle exercise, like walking. This helps keep the joints mobile and the muscles working well. If your dog is a highly active exerciser, perhaps a herding breed, consider adding hydrotherapy or water-based exercise to his/her routine.
- Home Comforts: Some simple steps you can take include arranging your home to reduce pain and discomfort for your pup. Ensure that your pup has a comfortable, orthopedic dog bed and place rugs on wood and tile surfaces. This will help avoid a dog knee injury and slips that could cause a canine ACL issue. A support sling will help your pup more easily go from sitting to standing positions, and a well-constructed leg or knee brace can help support your dog’s weight and lessen the pressure on joints.
- Medical Treatments: There are various treatments that can help you manage your dog’s It’s best to discuss options with your dog’s vet, as treatments will vary based on your dog’s age, the severity of pain, and progression of arthritis. Holistic treatments including herbal formals, laser therapy, and acupuncture are also very helpful in managing arthritis as well as knee injuries, including ACL tears.
Arthritis is a painful condition that can make life for your four-legged companion truly uncomfortable. That’s why it’s important to look for the signs of arthritis so that you can help your pup stay as pain-free as possible. Being an advocate for your older dog is one of the ways you can say ‘thank you’ for all of the joy he/she has brought you throughout the years.