What is Arthritis?
Bones are not directly connected, but they have soft cushions like padding at their ends where they meet each other. This soft tissue is known as cartilage. When this cartilage starts wearing off or gets damaged over time, it causes pain as joints are not as smooth as they were. It causes swelling and pain as the pets move. The disease affects the joints such as knees, hips, legs, shoulders, etc. It is only by noticing the early signs of dog arthritis that you can stop your pet’s suffering.
Some Early Signs of Dog Arthritis
Dogs don’t always show their pain. They are very good at hiding it. Thus, you will have to look for subtle and behavioral signs to see if your dog is suffering from the early stages of arthritis.
If the disease affects your dog’s legs, you will often see it limping or walking on one leg more than the other. Depending on the areas affected, you will see them walking slowly or showing stiffness in getting up or sitting down.
If they feel pain while walking, sitting, or running, they will stop moving. While once your dog doesn’t stop chasing you around the house, they will start looking at you with sleepy eyes. You can see them reluctant to get up the stairs, climb upon your bed, get on the sofa, jump into the car trunk, etc., which were some of his favourite things to do earlier. If you see them sitting in a place, reluctant to move, blame arthritis and make an appointment with the vet.
You are the best judge of your dog. If it starts playing less than earlier, prefers less noisy areas of the house, or keeps sitting in its bed near the fire, it’s time to see what’s wrong. When dogs know something is wrong, they don’t tell you. Instead, they get silent, bearing the pain alone.
Biting Or Whining on Touch
Constant pain causes sensitivity in the affected body parts. If you suspect your dog is suffering from arthritis, touch its joints. If the dog yelps, tries to shoo you away or bite you, your suspicion is confirmed. There is a problem.
While licking is a part of the grooming process, it is also a sign that there is a problem and your dog is trying to fix it by licking it. Dogs try to lick their wounds or irritating surfaces to heal them. If you see your dog chewing or licking particular areas more often, take it to the vet.
In a healthy body resides a happy mind. But, if your dog is not healthy, how can it be happy? They may sound irritating or try to ward you off or bite you if you touch affected spots.
Constant pain wears off your dog’s energy and makes them look tired all the time. If your dog is constantly tired, it’s time to take the problem seriously.
What Causes Dog Arthritis?
Apart from the cartilage damage, some other factors can also cause arthritis in dogs.
- A fracture in the past
- Obesity, if your dog gains unusual weight with age, causes joints to bear extra pressure, which causes wear and tear in the cartilage.
- Dysplasia causes improper development of joints and arthritis at a later stage.
- A past ligament rupture.
- Arthritis can affect any dog, be it a tiny chihuahua or a large greyhound.
- There is no particular age at which this disease starts creating havoc on your pets and your life.
- A dog as small as one year or 11 years old has the same chances of being attacked by the disease.
- Larger breeds like Great Dane, Alsatian, Rottweilers, Greyhounds, etc., have higher chances of joint problems as they are pretty heavy.
- Hip Dysplasia is common among breeds like labradors, chihuahua, mastiffs, bulldogs, etc., which causes problems later.
- Every breed type, be it Dalmatians, Beagles, mixed breed dogs, Golden retrievers, Poodles, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Saint Bernard, Sheepdogs, Siberian Husky, Boxers, etc., can be affected. So, if you own any of these breeds or are apart from these, look for unusual behaviour.
The bad news is that there is no cure for canine arthritis. But the good news is that it can be effectively managed. There are several ways to make your dog more comfortable and to slow the disease progression. You can do so by:
Manage your canine’s pain
Controlling your canine’s pain is fundamental in managing the disease better. Consult your vet to get some pain killers for your pet.
Control your dog’s weight
As mentioned above, excess weight puts more pressure on the paining joints. Create a plan in consultation with your vet to help your dog reach and maintain an ideal weight.
Regular, low-impact exercise
It might seem counterintuitive but regular exercise is extremely important to keep the joints healthy. However, note that letting your dog run free when he is showing signs of early arthritis may not be advisable. Keep him on a leash to allow moderate exercise.
If you see any of these symptoms, call your vet. If your dog looks uncomfortable, don’t ignore it. In winters, they may get stiff. But if the situation doesn’t change, taking it to a vet as soon as possible is the best line of defense before it is too late.