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Canine Arthritis – How to Help Your Dog

Having a dog is rewarding but also comes with responsibility. There is a chance your dog could develop one of the most common joint disease in dogs, Osteoarthritis particularly if you have a large breed dog like a Great Dane or a Mastiff. However while the larger dogs are more prone to it any dog can develop it especially as they enter their senior years. If you have noticed your dog is reluctant to jump off the couch, maybe is slower on the stairs, especially when it is cold and wet outside it is possible that arthritis is the reason. Here we talk about causes and symptoms of canine arthritis, what care and treatment is involved and how to help prevent it. Keep in mind there is no cure for arthritis in dogs, there is just management and giving your dog a better quality of life.

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Canine Arthritis – Why it Happens

Arthritis is more common in elder dogs as a result of getting older but can also happen in younger dogs of large breeds, dogs with joint infection, who had trauma to their joints, had a dislocation or have canine arthritis in their genetics. The cause therefore happens when wear and tear occurs either due to age, the load being to heavy in the case of large dogs or when joints have not formed properly or correctly, or have been damaged.

Symptoms of Canine Arthritis

Here are some of the more common symptoms that dogs with arthritis may exhibit;

Stiffness when walking

Less flexible

Some limbs may display lameness

Favoring certain limbs

Walking with a limp

When getting up after lying down showing discomfort or stiffness

Now finding some positions painful or uncomfortable

Reluctant to run up the stairs, run around or jump

Joints may appear swollen and sore

areas of the dog may be painful to be touched

How Arthritis in Dogs Progresses

This condition worsens slowly over time in most cases but in a small number of dogs there can be acute deterioration that can lead to the dog being paralyzed. At first there is joint stiffness and discomfort, especially after nap or sleeping times. The hind legs may shorten and the dog may be more and more reluctant to move. Eventually he will refuse to do normal things like going for a walk, jumping up onto the couch, getting up the stairs. Pain is a problem and actually has no proportion to joint damage. A dog with a lot of joint damage may suffer little pain, whereas a dog with a little damage may suffer greater pain. Once physical activity becomes less frequent your dog may loose weight and loose muscle mass. The damage to the cartilage is not something that can be cured or reversed, but the degeneration in most cases is slow.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To determine a confirmed diagnosis of arthritis the vet will perform a number of tests including a thorough physical, an examination of the fluid in his joints and xrays. They will also need to see your dog's medical history as well as possibly his parent's medical workup too in case of heredity conditions. As soon as you notice the first signs of stiffness and pain in the joints take your dog to see the vet. They will be able to recommend some things to help your dog manage the pain, reduce the swelling and focus on maintaining joint mobility. Things like diet, exercise and anti-inflammatory medications will be discussed. Dogs with arthritis can and should still exercise but keep it to low impact activities and short walks.

Preventing Canine Arthritis

The best thing you can do if your dog is more at risk is to start prevention tactics as early as possible. For puppies of big breed that means not letting them over exert themselves as this could cause joint damage at an age when they are still developing. Vets can recommend to dog owners the kind of load rate that is safe for various breeds.

Another factor is your dog's diet and their weight. Learn what the recommended amount of food is for your dog and follow it. Over weight dogs are far more likely to develop canine arthritis than those at a healthy weight. If your dog is already overweight talk to your vet about putting him on a diet, as different diets suit different dogs.

When you go to buy a puppy be sure you have seen his parents medical history and that it is clear of genetic conditions that might lead to arthritis. Have him examined by a vet to check that he is healthy.

Be warned that common infections that dogs can get can lead to complications like canine arthritis or even worse. Keeping your dog in general good health will be a good way to prevent or hold back arthritis developing. That includes making sure he is vaccinated. Getting all the vaccinations is not just important for your dog it helps prevent the spreading of infections to other animals and to yourself.

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Things You can Do to Keep Your Arthritic Dog More Comfortable

Make sure his bedding is soft

Keep play sessions short and low impact

Give gentle massages and do physical therapy

Brush your dog regularly in places that are now hard to reach for him

Buy a portable dog ramp to be used to help him get in or out of places that used to require a jump, like the car

Put water and food bowls on a raised area like a low table, raised feeder or crate so there is less strain on his spine and neck

Get an orthopedic foam bed