Just like humans, dogs can get arthritis. Literally the inflammation of a joint, arthritis occurs when the cartilage between two bones wears away, putting the joint under excess pressure and causing inflammation, swelling and pain. At Karingal Vet, we recommend a multi-modal approach to arthritis treatment, including weight loss and exercise regimes, supplements and medications.
Unlike humans, dogs can’t simply tell you they have arthritis. We have to be able to spot in their behaviour the symptoms for joint pain and inflammation. Often dog owners interpret these simply as the signs of old age, but they needn’t be. If you notice these signs in your canine companion, they may have arthritis:
Owners most commonly become aware of their pet’s arthritis when they notice a change in their dog’s gait. When you bring your pet in for a physical exam, this is one of the things we observe. Stiffness and soreness of the joints can make your furry friend walk less freely than before. Their walk may be more staggered, slower and less comfortable than when they were younger.
When you bring your pet in we observe how they walk. We also check:
There are a number of things you can do for your pet at home to take the pressure off of their joints. Massaging your pet when patting them is a fine way of stimulating blood flow and easing muscle tension. Be sure to read your dog’s behaviour to make sure that they are finding it helpful.
Pets may also find warm compresses such as a heat bag soothing, but be careful not to make them too hot or leave them on for too long.
Make sure your dog has access to soft bedding away from the cold or damp. Have a few blankets or cushions on the ground in a non-draughty area. Keeping the bedding low to the ground makes it more convenient for the dog. The fewer obstacles there are between the dog and the bed, for example stairs or jumps, make it easier for your pet to nestle in for a nap and get up again afterwards.
Carpets and soft furnishings take pressure off of dog’s joints. Put down a rug over hard, concreted areas and make sure to provide soft, warm areas for your pet to relax. Slippery areas can also be difficult for an arthritic dog, so provide rugs or mats over these.
If there are stairs or jumps the dog has to make, perhaps to go outside, think about installing a ramp. Ramps reduce the pressure stairs put on your pet’s joints.
Help your dog when they get in and out of your car, or up and down stairs or on and off the lounge. Jumps can place a lot of pressure on joints and for dogs with arthritis, this can mean pain.
The single most important way to take pressure of your pet’s joints is to make sure they are in the healthy weight range. An increasing number of pets are becoming overweight due to lack of exercise, poor diets or overfeeding, and this extra weight puts more pressure on joints. We can work with you to come up with healthy diet and exercise regimes for your pet.
Controlled exercise can help strengthen the muscles and take some of the pressure off your dog’s arthritic joints. Exercise helps with blood circulation and keeps the muscles surrounding arthritic joints active. Swimming is an excellent exercise for dogs with arthritis because it allows them to exercise the muscles surrounding arthritic joints without as much weight putting pressure on the joints.
Walks on the lead are also great. A short walk at your dog’s pace helps muscle tone and blood circulation without the strain of a run.
Karingal Vet provide a number of treatments for arthritis. We can help you implement a diet and exercise plan to help alleviate some of the symptoms of your dog’s arthritis. Diets can help with weight management and reducing the amount of inflammation present. Diets with high levels of omega-3s such as Hill’s Prescription J/D diet can help to relieve some arthritic suffering. We can also help come up with exercise regimes to help strengthen your pet’s muscles and take some pressure off the joints.
Laser therapy is an excellent way of helping arthritic pets. The use a of a special Class IV laser improves blood flow, reduces inflammation and alleviates pain. The laser light is delivered via a handpiece where it penetrates into the tissue stimulating injured and damaged cells to repair.
One popular alternative is our pet acupuncture. Acupuncture aims to stimulate the body into activating its own healing abilities. Like massage, acupuncture helps to stimulate blood flow and circulation. These help relieve some pain and inflammation.
Acupuncture involves inserting tiny, harmless needles for anywhere between fifteen and thirty minutes. The needles are placed along meridian lines, points along the body in which nerve endings and blood vessels converge. The needles stimulate the body’s own defence systems to calm areas of inflammation, promote blood flow and relax muscles. Most animals (including humans!) find the needles relaxing and a number of them even fall asleep during treatment.
Medication is often required to alleviate suffering in dogs with arthritis. We can talk to you about anti-osteoarthritic drugs and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to help with your pet’s joint pain. It is important to not give your pet your own pain medication! Dogs have different immune systems and cannot handle drugs like Ibuprofen or human dosages.
There are many supplements on the market that are promoted as being beneficial for treating arthritis. These may contain ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids and green lipped mussel extract. It can be confusing choosing what is right so feel free to contact us to discuss the ideal supplement for your dog.
If you suspect your dog is struggling with arthritis, book an appointment with us today. We will work with you to develop a multi-modal approach to alleviate their pain, using a combination of therapies and at-home methods. No one thing can cure arthritis but by employing a number of these strategies, we can work together to take away as much of your dog’s pain as possible.