Sore, Arthritic Hips & Joints In Dogs: What can I do to treat my dog's arthritis?

 

Date: March 11th, 2011

Arthritis is a common and difficult condition to manage for dog owners. Even the most playful and energetic dog can be slowed by this painful and discomforting disorder. Despite its widespread affect, each dog responds uniquely to the pain and discomfort. Older dogs can experience arthritis due to the natural process of aging when their joints start to deteriorate.  Younger dogs, especially the larger breeds, can experience this much before their senior years due to their size or work level. So, how can you help your dog? The first step is getting a better understanding of what exactly arthritis is. 

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Arthritis - What is it?

Arthritis is a term used for abnormal changes in a joint. Pinpointing the cause can be difficult because it does not always derive from a single source; it can develop due to joint tissue destruction after an infection, from congenital defects affecting structural architecture, and from years of stress and trauma to joint surfaces and their supporting structures. Sometimes immune system disorders will lead to joint tissue inflammation and degeneration. 

Most commonly, arthritis and joint pain is due to irregular conformation and misaligned stress points of the coxofemoral joint. The misalignment results in cartilage being adversely impacted and wearing away faster than it can regenerate. When the cartilage is worn down, a bony layer is exposed and it becomes inflamed and the joint capsule surrounding the joint members becomes thickened and less elastic. When this occurs, blood vessels around the joint dilate and the joint becomes swollen and inflamed. The elastic tissues of the joint stiffen and calcium deposits build up causing pain and discomfort. As this progresses, motion gradually becomes more restricted and the dog attempts to reduce the use of the joint. 

Unfortunately the problem does not stop there - by reducing movement the dog is compounding the problem. Often the dog will gain weight, further decreasing mobility and adding potential health issues to the mix. 

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Signs of Arthritis

Waiting for your dog to show a slight limp is too late! This is most likely the end stage of long-term joint degeneration. Instead, subtle or slight signs can be attributed to early stages of arthritis and noticing these signs and acting upon them is imperative. 

Typically, the first behavioral changes in a dog experiencing early signs of arthritis are weight gain, an increase in the amount of time sleeping, decreased interest in playing, and a change in attitude or alertness. For example, if your dog becomes less excited when you arrive home, becomes overly cautious climbing stairs, or struggles to jump up on his spot on the couch, these may be the first signs of joint discomfort caused by arthritis.

Closely monitor your dog's temperament. If you suspect joint pain, consult a veterinarian. 

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Treating the Pain

Before you give your dog any medication, it is always important to know that there may be occasional adverse reactions for some dogs. If you are unsure if you should give your dog something, ALWAYS check with your veterinarian. There are many anti-inflammatory medications - discuss the pros and cons with your vet to determine which one is right for your dog.

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Glucosamine and Chondroitin are the most common nutraceuticals for making dogs with joint soreness more comfortable.  Glucosamine Sulfate has anti-inflammatory and joint regenerating properties, while Chondroitin Sulfate reduces the level of destructive enzymes that damage cartilage. 

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There are many options that can help you make your dog more comfortable.  Most dog food companies have at least one product in their line that includes Glucosamine.  Additionally there are many treats on the market that have Glucosamine and sometimes Chondroitin in them.

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If higher doses are needed there are also supplemental options you can choose from.  These usually come in pill form that are very palatable and most dogs will take them easily. If not, try Greenies Pill Pockets to mask the taste.

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In addition to medication, there are other aspects that need to be regulated. Keeping excess body weight to a minimum is very important not only for the dog's overall health, but also managing arthritis. There are many instances where simply reducing the dog's weight to a healthy level has had noticeable and effective changes on the dog's activity and mobility. Also, soft, cushioned sleeping surfaces that keep the dog comfortable may aid in arthritic discomfort. Hardwood floors or a stiff doghouse floor do not alleviate joint stiffness and will only exacerbate the issue.

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One final reminder that is very important to note! Some dog owners have given their pets human arthritis medicine - this can be very dangerous! Acetaminophen, found in Tylenol, has been associated with liver damage in dogs. Ibuprophen has been reported to cause gastro-intestinal bleeding. Only give your dog medicine that is approved for him. If you are unsure if you should give your dog a medication, always speak with a veterinarian!

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CountryMax knows how hard it can be to watch your pet struggle with pain and discomfort - if you have any questions about the topic, ask us and we would be happy to help!

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For additional information on the topic, read this article: http://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/evr_dg_arthritis_how_to_recognize_and_manage_the_condition#.UAl3vbQV3s4 



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