Coping with Arthritis in Your Dog

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Arthritis in dogs is as common as arthritis in humans and can be just as painful and uncomfortable for them as it is for us. But there are ways of managing the disease to ease the discomfort for your pet.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is another word which means simply inflammation of the joints, and it's a common problem for many dogs. Many of us will no doubt know that our pet is suffering from arthritis when it shows signs of pain, discomfort and stiffness which are all textbook signs of the disease. Inside of a dog's joints, bone surfaces are usually covered with a thin layer of smooth cartilage and it is lubricated with a small amount of joint fluid. This allows the two surfaces to glide freely over one another with very minimal friction. For dogs with arthritis, cartilage within the joint undergoes change or damage making it less smooth and resulting in the bone surfaces rubbing together. This is what causes the discomfort to your dog as well as further damage to the cartilage. As a result of this increased friction, new bone starts to form around the joint making the joint stiffer and this restricts its movement even more, this condition is known as degenerative joint disease.

What causes arthritis in dogs?

Arthritis in pets is usually seen in older dogs but the condition can develop from an early age if your pet has shown problems with bone and joint development. Arthritis may affect one or any number of your dog's joints. Most cases develop as a result of abnormal rubbing within the joint caused by joint instability such as after ligament damage, damage to or abnormal cartilage development, or damage caused by trauma such as fractures. Like us humans, signs of arthritis can result in the onset of joint problems earlier in your pets of life.

How to prevent arthritis in your dog?

One of the easiest ways to prevent arthritis in your dog is to start a good exercise program at a local dog park if possible. You don't want the exercise to be too extreme, but you do want to make sure they are getting enough exercise to properly move their muscles and joints. Two hours a day is a good amount of time to spend with your dog exercising. Also, a variety of exercise is beneficial to your pet as well. Whether it be throwing the ball or chasing a frisbee for short periods of time everyday. Short walks or even taking them to the dog park to socialize with other dogs are good ways to exercise your dog. This will be the most beneficial treatment for your pet to prevent arthritis.

Another way to prevent arthritis in your dog is to keep your pet at a healthy weight. This will reduce distress on the joints of your pet and help keep things moving as they should. If you notice that your dog has picked up some weight around the ribs and belly, you should speak with your vet to see if your pet is overweight. Your veterinarian will also be able to help you with a weight loss plan. Your vet will usually carry specific foods for different medical issues that your pets may have so they might recommend a certain type of food that they offer for bone and joint health, also specialty dog stores and Pet Shops will offer many varieties of dog food many of which are specific to preventing arthritis and improving joint and muscle health.

What helps arthritis in dogs?

Work with your vet by going to regular check-ups to monitor your pet?s arthritis and to make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan provided by your vet. Keeping your dog at the proper weight and maintaining their weight can help decrease the load on their joints. Be sure to be feeding your pet the proper amount of a high quality dog food, if you don't know which food is right for your dog ask your vet. Controlled exercise is a great way for you to carefully monitor your dog while they play or walk. If possible find a soft surface for activity, your vet can recommend or offer more suggestions for keeping your dog moving regularly. Keep your dog warm and dry as much as possible, cold and damp conditions can and will aggravate arthritis in your pet. You might want to consider purchasing a padded dog bed and apply warm compresses to their joints on cold or rainy days.

There are some holistic recommendations such as taking your pet to a professional animal massage therapist, massage can help increase your dog?s flexibility, circulation and movement as well as giving them a sense of well-being. Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can be used to help improve joint mobility and support better joint functions for dogs suffering from arthritis. You could also try acupuncture, this is a painless technique that has shown some success in animals suffering from arthritis in their joints. If your dog's arthritis is severe or more advanced, surgery may be an option. First ask your veterinarian about the pros and cons of surgery and what you can expect afterwards.

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