As the cold and wet days of winter gloom upon us, arthritis in dogs and humans begins to show its ugly face. Even though joining hands with the bitter temperatures, these arthritic pains are commonly a year-round nuisance. With over 14 million pets in the U.S. having arthritis, and only a small percentage receiving treatment, I turned to Dr. Becker with Healthy Pets to help us answer some questions.
First let’s ask, what is arthritis?
Generally speaking, arthritis is used to refer to joint pain or joint disease. It is characterized as inflammation that can affect one or several joints. The main symptoms include pain and stiffness which worsen with age. These symptoms hold true when referring to arthritis in humans and arthritis in dogs, although the causes are different when standing.
Next let’s ask, what are the types of arthritis in dogs?
There are actually over 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. According to Dr. Becker, the most common arthritis in dogs that pet owners tend to be familiar with is osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis. OA is the progressive and permanent deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints. The second type of arthritis dogs may be exposed to is septic arthritis. This type of arthritis usually includes joint inflammation plus a bacterial infection. This can appear after an injury or surgery. The third type of arthritis is Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis (IMPA), characterized as joint inflammation caused by the immune system attacking the body. The word “poly” indicates that several joints are involved. There are several other types of arthritis in dogs not mentioned here.
Now, how do you tell if your pet is suffering from arthritis?
Osteoarthritis symptoms include pain when attempting to move, reduced activity level, joint deformities, swollen joints, stiffness, and increased discomfort with prolonged activity or cold weather. Septic arthritis symptoms include pain, fever, lethargy, joint swelling, loss of appetite or difficulty walking. Symptoms of IMPA arthritis in dogs include signs of illness (ex. vomiting, not eating), difficulty walking, spinal pain, and trouble when standing on a joint.
So, is arthritis in dogs preventable?
Animals were created to move. It is important to provide your pet with 30-minutes of activity three times a week. Avoid trying to play catch up on Saturday and Sunday with vigorous exercise as this can injure your pet. Diets are breed driven so it is important to provide your pet with the necessary nutrients. Avoid foods that are “low fat” or for “weight management”. Dogs are carnivores and these types of food are not what they should be eating. Dr. Becker recommends swimming, massage, acupuncture and taking your dog to the chiropractor if they become injured to put their spine back in alignment. She recommends adding certain supplements to your pet’s diet which can provide the raw materials for cartilage repair and maintenance:
- Glucosamine sulfate with MSM
- Homeopathic Rhus Tox
- Natural anti-inflammatory formulas (herbs, proteolytic enzymes, and nutraceuticals)
Finally, let’s ask, what are the options to helping our beloved pets combat the arthritic pain and live comfortably?
Dr. Becker recommends physical therapy and massage therapy to increase blood flow to atrophying muscles, improving mobility and decreasing joint stiffness. She also suggests natural anti-inflammatory agents like esterified fatty acid complex, fish oil, turmeric and proteolytic enzyme therapy to reduce or eliminate the need for daily non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Chondroprotective agents(CPAs) are also a must as they address the root cause of the problem: cartilage degeneration. The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids have been documented to be helpful in treating arthritis in dogs. Swimming is also highly encouraged as it is a non-weight bearing exercise, reducing the strains made on the joints when on land. Alternative veterinary practitioners sometimes use acupuncture and Chinese herbs to treat arthritis in dogs. Always contact your veterinarian first before giving your pet any form of medication or supplement.
Now we are prepared to recognize if our dogs are suffering from arthritis and have a better idea of how to help them combat the pain. Woof to a long, healthy canine life.
It is highly advised to not give your dog over-the-counter pain medicines without consulting your veterinarian. Most are toxic to canines and can cause a tragic death.