What You Need to Know About Managing Your Dog's Arthritis Pain

Senior dog

Osteoarthritis is a common disorder in dogs that involves the thinning of joint cartilage (the protective cushioning between the bones), the buildup of fluid within the joint, and the formation of bony growths within the joint. Over time, this process leads to reduced mobility and pain.

What Are the Common Causes and Symptoms of Canine Arthritis?

It's estimated that about 20 percent of dogs over the age of one develop arthritis.

Several things can lead to the condition, including ligament injuries, fractures, obesity, degenerative joint disease, and such front and back leg developmental disorders as elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia.

Symptoms of arthritis are most noticeable after a dog has been resting, and the number-one sign of arthritis is pain, which can vary from mild to severe. Arthritis pain can cause additional symptoms, such as stiffness, limping, changes in behavior and a reluctance to get up, jump or go up and down stairs.

If your dog exhibits any of these signs, visit your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.

How Can Diet and Exercise Help an Arthritic Dog?

With the right diet and exercise plan, as well as pain relief, you can improve your dog’s joint health and also quality of life.

Most importantly, dogs who stay at a normal body weight throughout life have a lower risk of getting arthritis. If arthritis does develop, it typically occurs later in life, tends to be less severe, and progresses more slowly in dogs of normal weight compared to those who are overweight. The signs of arthritis often increase in overweight dogs, and many of them experience significant relief after shedding added pounds.

In addition to working with your veterinarian to develop a proper weight loss plan for an arthritic dog who's carrying extra pounds, daily exercise can help to maintain muscle strength, which is necessary to stabilize painful joints.

Swimming or leash walking are excellent forms of exercise for dogs with affected joints. Activities that should be avoided: 

  • Jumping
  • Running up or down stairs
  • Abrupt stops after running, such as catching a ball
  • Any exercise on slippery surfaces

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