Arthritis in pets

Understanding arthritis

First of all, it's important to understand that arthritis is a very broad term which refers to joint inflammation and there are many different types of arthritis. The most common type is Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), also known as osteoarthritis, which typically develops in middle aged and older dogs. The constant strain on joints over a lifetime wears down the cartilage on the end of the bone and when the cushion protection of the cartilage is gone, the bones rub against each other causing swelling, stiffness and pain.

DJD is typically categorised as either primary or secondary DJD. Primary DJD develops over time from the general wear and tear on joints caused by ageing. In comparison, secondary DJD arises from a previous physical trauma like an injury or the stress on joints caused by obesity.

There is currently no cure for arthritis and the disease can only be managed. The prevention tips below should be followed as early as possible and maintained for life, particularly if your dog's breed is prone to developing degenerative disorders. Prolonging the onset of arthritis is going to be much simpler and cost effective than managing the arthritis itself.

Signs and symptoms of arthritis in dogs

Aside from a general reduction in activity, there are a number of other signs and symptoms to look out for. It will take your dog a little longer to get up in the morning or after a nap. After being still for so long, their joints will take a little while to warm up again. They may not be able to play for as long and extended or vigorous exercise may result in stiffness or pain. Sometimes arthritis will begin in one leg and your dog may walk with a limp to avoid moving or putting pressure on the joint.

You may notice your dog avoiding hardwood floors, preferring to sit or walk on carpeted surfaces. The extra cushioning of carpet gives them more support for easier balance. Pain related aggression may develop if you attempt to pick them up or touch sensitive joints.

What can I do to help prevent arthritis in my dog?

Some breeds, particularly larger dogs, are more susceptible to developing arthritis and the onset is inevitable. However there are steps you can take to help prevent and manage arthritis in your pet.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight pets have increased strain on their joints which makes them much more likely to develop arthritis. If you have a pudgy pooch, you should look at weight loss solutions to prevent the onset of joint disease and other associated conditions. Hills Science Diet have a low calorie range with active fat burner L-Carnitine; who said weight loss had to be difficult?
  • Steady growth during puppy phase. Your puppy's diet should not be geared towards maximising their growth rate. An over accelerated growth rate can lead to various bone and joint related complications, including arthritis. Look instead for products like Eukanuba that promote optimal, targeted growth.
  • Feed a nutritionally balanced diet. Ensure that your pooch's diet consists of essential vitamins and minerals to build and maintain healthy joints. Overdosing on certain vitamins can sometimes cause the same symptoms as a deficiency, so be careful to give the right dosage to your pet.
  • Proper care for injuries. If your pet has been injured, physiotherapy may play an important role in restoring and maintaining healthy joint function. Swimming or walking in water is a gentle way to strengthen and rebuild muscle to prevent further injury. Feeding a diet that promotes healthy joints such as Hills Healthy Mobility may help to alleviate some of that post injury pain.
  • Mani pedi time! Keep your canine's claws under control with Petlife's Nail Clippers. Long toenails alter the posture of your pooch's paws and after time this may twist or misalign their joints. If your pet spends a lot of time indoors on wooden and carpeted floors or outside in the soft grass, they will require more frequent nail care. Dogs exposed to hard surfaces, like concrete or gravel will naturally have their nails filed down but may still require the occasional trim.

Key take home points

While we can do our best to prevent our furry friend from developing arthritis, sometimes the onset of this degenerative disorder is outside of our control. However, a proper understanding of the underlying disease and ways in which it can be managed will go a long way to ensure your companion still leads a long and happy life.

Feeding your pet a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight is the best preventative. Don't forget to keep their claws clipped to prevent poor posture and joint misalignment.

For tips on how to manage your dog's arthritic condition, read How can I care for my dog with arthritis? or watch the following video:

How To Help Your Dog With Arthritis from Pet Circle on Vimeo.

Posted by Jessica Varley

Owner of a small Chihuahua army and lover of all things pets; when Jess isn't managing her pup Nacho's instagram you can find her writing about all the awesome new products on the Pet Circle website!

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