Caring for dogs with arthritis
Most older dogs suffer from some degree of arthritis, but the disease is not limited to the elderly. Disorders like hip or elbow dysplasia and cruciate ligament ruptures may cause dogs to develop early and/or especially severe arthritis. Whatever the reasons behind a dog’s arthritis, the good news is that owners now have many safe and effective options available to treat it.
The symptoms of arthritis vary based on the location and severity of the disease and an individual’s tolerance for pain. Most dogs have some combination of the following symptoms.
• appear to be “slowing down”
• are reluctant to exercise
• show stiffness or discomfort when trying to stand up
• limp when walking or trotting (lameness may worsen with exercise or after rest)
• react painfully to being touched over certain parts of the body
• have difficulty finding a comfortable position in which to rest
• are hesitant or unable to jump or climb stairs
Definitively diagnosing arthritis requires that a veterinarian perform a physical and orthopedic examination to localize the areas of discomfort followed by x-rays to rule out other causes and visualize the typical radiographic changes associated with the disease. Veterinarians may be able to forgo x-rays and make a working diagnosis of arthritis when a dog’s symptoms, history, and physical exam are completely consistent with the disease.
The best way to treat arthritis in dogs is through individualized combination therapy. Weight loss is vital in overweight animals to reduce the wear and tear on joints and the adverse hormonal effects of too much body fat. Pain relievers will help arthritic dogs feel better, which often increases their willingness to exercise. Physical activity, and in some cases physical therapy, is important to maintaining strength, flexibility, and to help with weight management. Acupuncture, cold laser treatments, stem cell therapy, and even surgery can all play important roles in treating a dog’s arthritis.
Whichever type of treatment a dog with arthritis receives, most individuals will also benefit from the additions of a nutritional supplement designed to improve joint health. These products can protect and heal joint cartilage, improve the quality and quantity of joint fluid, and reduce joint inflammation. Scientific research has shown that extracts from green-lipped mussels (e.g., Glyco-Flex soft chews and chewable tablets) are effective in the treatment of arthritis in dogs. Green Lipped Mussels contain large amounts of glycosaminoglycans, chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids, and other compounds that all work together to promote joint health and comfort.
Determining which combination of arthritis treatments works best in an individual dog can take time and patience, but the comfort they give makes it well worth the effort.