How to Prevent and Ease Osteoarthritis in Dogs

We’re a nation of pet lovers. So, when our dogs start showing signs that they’re unwell, we want to help them the best way we can.

According to Canine Arthritis Management, osteoarthritis affects 80% of older dogs and is the most common type of chronic pain for all canines. However, the condition isn’t always easy to detect by owners.

So, what do you do if you think your pet is suffering from osteoarthritis or you want to take steps now to prevent it? For advice on detecting, stopping and easing osteoarthritis in your dog, check out our guide.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is found in many species and affects joints. The condition is an inflammation of the joints that causes pain and reduces usability before weakening the surrounding ligaments and muscles. Typically, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, greyhounds, German shepherds, Rottweilers, and boxers are the breeds most commonly affected by osteoarthritis. Although, the condition can occur in any dog type, large or small.

According to Animal Friends Pet Insurance, the number of dogs suffering from the condition has trebled since 2015 and is expected to climb further. Although osteoarthritis in dogs is still not fully understood, there are ways you can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis or make life easier for your pet if they already have the condition. Considering that you could end up forking out around £3,000 to treat the condition, it’s worth looking at preventative methods now.

Diet

Medium and large dog breeds are the most susceptible to osteoarthritis, as their size puts greater strain on joints. However, any animal that is overweight or obese significantly increases their risk of developing the condition and many experts believe that the growth in dog obesity levels is the cause of the increase in canine osteoarthritis sufferers.

“It’s entirely plausible that we are experiencing a pet obesity epidemic, with increasing numbers of pets — including dogs — that are overweight or obese. And we know that carrying excess weight is a clear risk factor for arthritis,” commented Sean Wensley, president of the British Veterinary Association.

So, the first step you should take if you’re looking at preventing or easing arthritis is diet. How much is your pet eating? Are you guilty of giving them too many treats? Have you researched what’s in their dog food to make sure they’re getting the right nutrition?

Swap human titbits for natural dog treats and make sure you buy quality dog food and mixers that suit the age and size of your dog. Grain-fee dog food can help keep your dog feeling fuller for longer and will give them more energy to run off excess calories, while keeping them distracted with toys might help to keep them from begging for food.

Nutritious dog food should contain:

• 30-70% carbohydrates.
• 5-10% fat.
• 18-25% protein.
• Mix of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A, Vitamin E, calcium, and potassium.

It’s recommended that you feed your dog twice a day (with a gap of approximately 8-12 hours) and use a measuring cup to ensure the portion size is correct for the breed and size. Making positive changes to your dog’s diet today could save you thousands in vet bills and your pet years of pain in the future.

Exercise

Osteoarthritis in dogs is a vicious cycle. Canines with painful joints don’t want to move, which means they gain weight and put more stress on their sore limbs. However, exercise helps to lubricate the joints, so gentle activity — like a short walk — maintains improved agility and keeps arthritis at bay. Striking a balance is key when it comes to preventing arthritis with exercise. Over-exercising your dog when they’re young can put unnecessary strain on immature joints, so be careful.

If your dog already suffers from arthritis, you need to make sure they’re still getting plenty of exercise to prevent obesity, which will only worsen the condition. Often, it will be harder for your dog to move after a nap, but you can help by gently massaging the arthritic area when they wake up. Also, providing them with an ergonomic dog bed will help deliver more comfort for sore joints, while giving them a heated bed to sleep on — which will provide extra warmth to stop the joints from becoming too stiff overnight — could also assist in alleviating discomfort.

Environment

Do you let your dog on the sofa? Sleep on the end of your bed? Or run up and down the stairs? If so, you should try and reduce these activities if you want to prevent osteoarthritis. Jumping and climbing places far more stress on a dog’s joints than a human’s. Install a ramp leading into your home or into the boot of your car, and make a new house rule that your dog is only allowed downstairs and not on the furniture.

This might be difficult — especially if you aren’t dealing with a puppy who can learn quickly — but it will certainly ease the stress you dog’s joints have to take every day.

Supplements

Introducing supplements such as glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids and chondroitin sulfate into your dog’s diet can help both prevent and ease osteoarthritis. These act as anti-inflammatory agents and improve your pet’s ability to fix and fortify joint tissues. Although they won’t cure the condition, they should help relieve it and hinder its progress — but check that these aren’t already ingredients in your dog’s food, as too much could be harmful.

Steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are another way to reduce swelling, although there can be side-effects. Using supplements and pain-killers are potentially good ways to make osteoarthritis less likely or painful on your pet, but it’s important that you consult your dog’s vet before adding these to their diet.

The tell-tale signs of osteoarthritis in dogs

Here are the major signs that you dog could be suffering from the condition:

• Unwillingness to exercise.
• Signs of lameness.
• Stiffness that might improve after exercise but worsen in cold or damp conditions.
• Licking at a particular joint.
• Irritability.
• Weight gain.
• Oversleeping.
• Swollen joints.
• Loss of appetite.

Although osteoarthritis in dogs is not curable, there are clearly ways you can slow its progression and reduce the risk of it occurring in your pet. If you suspect that your dog has osteoarthritis, it’s important that you see a vet straight away.

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