Arthritis is one of the most common diseases affecting dogs today
It is estimated that at least “20% of dogs” are affected by the condition [The Woof Works] This is partly because our pets are living longer, but also because many of them are obese, which is putting excessive strain on their joints.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammation of one or more joints, characterised by joint pain and stiffness.
It can develop for several reasons and certain dog breeds – such as Labradors, Retrievers, German Shepherds and other larger breeds – are more prone to developing arthritis. As well as being larger, they have a higher tendency to develop congenital joint diseases such as osteochondrosis or hip and elbow dysplasia, which all inevitably lead to arthritis in later years.
Chasing balls or sticks constantly can put excessive strain on joints, which can leave your dog predisposed to arthritis.
Arthritis can occasionally develop as the result of a joint infection and this is common in pets that have been bitten on a joint by another animal.
Obesity is a major factor – if your pet is overweight, the increased strain on their joints can lead to arthritis.
Very occasionally, dogs will develop arthritis because of immune-mediated diseases. This tends to affect younger animals and is like rheumatoid arthritis in humans.
Can I stop arthritis from developing?
You can’t prevent arthritis from developing, but you can do a few things to help reduce its severity and slow down its progression:
Don’t let your pet become obese
Make sure your pet is the correct weight. You should be able to feel their ribs, but not see them, and your pet should always have a waist. If you’re unsure, pop into your local vets – most offer free weight checks and can help advise on weight loss if needed.
Avoid repetitive exercise
Ball throwing, whilst lots of fun, can cause joint strain if done too often and for too long. Limit ball throwing to two 20-minute sessions. When you’re not playing with the ball, hide it so your dog doesn’t obsess over it.
Swimming is a great way for dogs to exercise without straining their joints. Take care to dry them thoroughly so they don’t get cold, and make sure they can get in and out of the water easily. There are also lots of pet hydrotherapy centres across the UK if there’s nowhere suitable outdoors.
Try a supplement
Glucosamine and chondroitin joint supplements for dogs can really help improve joint health. Make sure you use one specifically designed for your pet.
My pet has arthritis – how can I help them?
Although there isn’t a cure for arthritis, there are lots of treatment options, as well as lifestyle changes you can make:
Make sure they are the correct weight
Being overweight will only put more strain on your dog’s joints and cause more problems down the line.
Exercise little and often
Four 10-minute walks are better than two 20-minute walks, as this prevents straining the joints too much.
Give them a massage
A massage in the morning or after your dog has been sleeping can get the circulation going and ease stiffness. Heat pads can also help with their mobility.
Speak to your vet
Your vet can prescribe some stronger painkillers if needed, or an anti-inflammatory drug such as Metacam or Loxicom.