Arthritis can gradually progress, so it’s important that you know how to spot the signs. Noticing the symptoms of pain in your dog and acting is important, as there are so many ways to alleviate any discomfort your pet may be experiencing. Pain relief is the main objective and, in some cases, it may also be possible to slow down how quickly the condition progresses.
Here are key things to watch out for, and how you can help make life a little more comfortable for your dog.
Five tell-tale signs that your dog’s arthritis is progressing
1. Stiffness and limping upon rising
This is the most common sign of arthritis. Look out for it when your dog first gets up after lying down, as it’ll become less noticeable as he ‘warms up’ by moving around.
2. Difficulty jumping
Have you seen your dog struggle to jump in and out of the car or up on to the sofa? Stiffness or discomfort due to arthritis could be the cause.
A dog who is experiencing joint pain may lick the skin over the area that is hurting, especially the ‘wrists’ of the forelimbs. Over time, persistent licking in the same area can lead to raw skin and infection.
4. Change in shape
You might notice that your dog’s body shape changes, appearing to have a more ‘hunched’ back. This is because arthritis can affect the joints in the spine, which results in a change of posture.
5. Mood and behaviour changes
If your dog seems irritable, growls, or snaps when being examined or lifted, this can often be a sign of persistent pain, including joint pain.
If you’ve noticed any of these signs in your pet, it’s important to get them checked over by your vet as soon as possible.
As I’m sure your vet would have advised, there’s no cure for arthritis but there are lots of ways in which dogs with the condition can be made more comfortable.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are the most effective and generally safest. They were specially developed to be safe for use in dogs, but if they’re being used over the long term, your vet will need to monitor your pet’s kidney function. Other medicines include high-quality glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, which help protect cartilage (the flexible, connective tissue in joints). Acupuncture and therapeutic laser therapies have also been found to be successful in animals suffering from arthritis, and joint replacement surgery is now available for young dogs with hip dysplasia that are in constant pain despite medication.
There are also some practical steps you can take to help make life for your arthritic dog more comfortable, such as adapting your home. Finally, maintaining a healthy weight is also important because any extra pounds will increase the strain on an animal’s joints. Arthritic dogs move less and are unlikely to burn off extra calories, so for them weight management almost always requires a change of diet. Speak to your vet or an animal nutritionist for tips on how to do so.