Could your spunky, athletic, play-loving dog have arthritis? Is he missing some of his former bounce? Arthritis in dogs is very common, so it’s entirely possible that your dog may be feeling a bit old before his time.

Although there are no “cures” for arthritis, there are several steps you can take to help keep your dog’s arthritis under control:

  • If your veterinarian has determined that your pet is overweight, work together to create a plan to help your dog reach a healthier weight.
  • A high-quality dog bed, especially an orthopedic dog bed, can go a long way toward keeping your dog comfortable. Memory foam mattresses are sometimes recommended for the highest comfort, as they can be effective at eliminating pressure points while your dog sleeps.
  • Sometimes a chilly and/or damp environment can make your dog’s arthritis flare up more than usual. When the cold winter months come around, consider moving your dog’s bed to a warmer location in your home, or turn up the heat in your dog’s usual hangout to keep the temperature more comfortable.
  • Help your dog maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. Light exercise is usually best. Avoid vigorous play sessions that could increase his pain. Swimming is a popular recommendation for dogs with arthritis, as it allows for muscle exercise without the normal accompanying joint impact strain of walking or running. Plus, many dogs love swimming, which makes it a win-win situation.

What is arthritis
Arthritis is a blanket term for various forms of joint inflammation that can be moderately to severely painful. Different forms of arthritis have different root causes, including inflammation from an old injury, an autoimmune response or osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease). That last one is what people usually think of when they speak of arthritis, even in dogs, and it can be described as plain old wear and tear.

In all these cases, arthritis is actually a symptom of a deeper problem, which is that the joint cartilage that normally allows for smooth, painless joint movement, has worn away, sometimes to the point that the joint bones touch. The discernible sign of this is the pain we call arthritis. In severe cases, arthritis can become a troublesome cycle in which your dog begins to avoid using certain muscles to engage in certain activities, which in turn makes it even harder for him to do those activities.

Signs that your dog has arthritis
Symptoms of arthritis in your dog may be obvious or subtle, depending on its advancement. Signs include general body stiffness, limping or favoring one leg or side and apparent lethargy. Your dog may display difficulty getting up after lying down, or may begin to dislike climbing stairs or may not want to be touched in certain areas.

Prevention and treatments
Unfortunately, arthritis is a disease that is essentially impossible to predict or prevent. Your dog may have a predisposition to the condition simply due to his genetics or from his lifestyle. Large breed dogs, overweight dogs and senior dogs can be more prone to arthritis. Still, you can put your dog’s best foot forward by helping him to avoid joint injury, keeping him at a healthy weight (obesity can subject joints to unneeded stress) and maintaining a consistent yet moderate exercise regime throughout his life. Consistency is important to keep joints moving, but avoid overworking them.

As with any health concern, the advice and guidance of your dog’s veterinarian is critical. Depending on the individual situation, a veterinarian could advise the use of anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) to ease your dog’s pain and decrease inflammation. Other treatments involve chondroprotective agents or even acupuncture. In any case, your goal is to relieve pain and limit the advancement of arthritis so your dog can continue to enjoy a pleasant and happy life for years to come.

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