How to Treat Canine Arthritis

Arthritis in dogs occurs when the cartilage that lines and protects the bones of your dog’s joints begins to wear down. This can be caused by several factors including age, genetics, and environmental issues such as obesity.

Symptoms of arthritis often appear gradually over time, which means you need to take note of the signs as they develop so that you can visit your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. A vet will examine your pet in a number of ways to determine the cause of your dog’s pain and discomfort.

Your vet will probably conduct a thorough physical exam to see how the muscles, ligaments, and tendons are functioning. They will also look at the joints to check for pain, stiffness and any abnormalities such as bone spurs or osteophytes. If there are any problems, the veterinarian will likely recommend radiographs to confirm a diagnosis.

Common causes of joint disease in dogs include developmental disorders such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and patellar luxation; and other conditions that occur in older dogs, such as degenerative arthritis (OA), cruciate ligament injuries, osteochondritis dissecans, and spinal injury. Some breeds are more prone to developing these conditions, but some can also be caused by environmental factors such as obesity.

A vet will be able to prescribe an anti-inflammatory for your dog to help relieve the pain and swelling that is occurring in their joints. These drugs are usually given as a daily dose or in pulses for a few weeks at a time to give your dog the relief they need.

There are a number of other types of pain medications that your vet may also prescribe to treat your dog’s arthritis. These can include gabapentin, acetaminophen, and tramadol. Medications for pain are typically prescribed only when other forms of pain management such as massage, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture have been ineffective or not enough to help your pet cope with their symptoms.

Diet is an important component of any treatment plan for your dog with arthritis. A balanced diet that provides protein, fats, and vitamins and minerals is crucial to ensuring your pet has the nutrition they need to maintain healthy joints. It is also essential to ensure your dog’s weight is managed in a way that reduces pressure on their joints, and helps support healthy muscle mass.

Exercise is also an important part of any arthritic treatment plan, and should be limited to supervised activities to allow your dog’s joints to move properly while keeping their muscles strong. Uncontrolled exercises can put undue stress on your dog’s joints and cause a lot of pain and damage.

Medications for canine arthritis are typically designed to control inflammation in the affected joints, reduce pain and improve mobility. NSAIDs and corticosteroids are commonly prescribed, but rarer drugs such as gabapentin or tramadol can be used instead.

Rehabilitative treatments such as hydrotherapy are effective in preventing or slowing the progression of arthritis by helping to encourage your dog to get active and to take the pressure off their joints. These treatments can be beneficial to both you and your dog, so talk to your vet if you think your pet could benefit from a course of hydrotherapy or other rehabilitative therapies.