Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that eats away the cartilage between joints leading to chronic pain. It usually affects older dogs especially those seven years and older. This degenerative disease is painful no doubt and often leads to loss of mobility and diminishes the quality of life.
While humans are as prone to arthritis as dogs, the main difference is that humans can verbalize their pain, allowing them to seek medical attention earlier. Dogs, on the other hand, cannot do this. Therefore, you need to watch out for signs that include stiffness when getting up or sitting down, limping, a slower gait, not running or jumping around as dogs are usually prone to and dragging their feet when it comes to going up the stairs. Early recognitions and treatment go a long way in delaying progression and can help your pet lead a quality life.
The Red Flags of Canine Osteoarthritis
As a pup, Momo was an energetic dog. She loved playing fetch, chasing birds, and just plain running around the yard chasing her tail. As she grew a bit older, she became calmer and opted to lounge on the couch and wait for the time to eat and take a walk. She acquired the habit of making one of us her human bed – and with her size, we were basically trapped. But she still loved walking around the block and playing with her friends at the dog park.
At 13, Momo was considerably slower and didn’t have the same enthusiasm for walks and play like she used to. Initially, we thought that it has something to do with the extra weight she packed on. We decided to help her shed the pounds hoping that she’ll be back to her old active self. She began to get huffy and irritable, but we attributed this change to her not being able to eat as fast or as much as she used to.
One day, we noticed Momo favoring her right paws as she walked. Any contact with her left paws had her whimpering, which is how we ended up going to the vet.
After a thorough check and what felt like an eternity of X-rays and examinations, the doctor said that Momo had osteoarthritis. The signs were all there:
- Lameness or lethargy
- Weight gain
- Irritability and behavioral changes
- Refusal to play
- Pain when touched
Knowing that Momo was in constant pain and that we failed to see the signs and take immediate action was heartbreaking. However, what we could now do was make lifestyle and diet changes to help her be more comfortable despite her situation.
Treatments for Canine Osteoarthritis
The cure for osteoarthritis, canine or otherwise, is still a dream. Most treatments for dogs with this degenerative disease, focus on halting its progress, managing pain, battling inflammation and preventing further damage.
Joint supplements with glucosamine, chondroitin, and green-lipped mussels (GLM) are prescribed to canine patients to alleviate the inflammation. This helps promote cartilage water retention giving their joints more cushion. Of the three, GLM helps reduce the pain and preserve joint function.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are staples in arthritic treatments of canines. Though this medication helps reduce the pain and addresses inflammation, continued use may affect liver and kidney function.
Propagators of natural and holistic treatment recommend fish oil. It is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids that help alleviate inflammation and boost the dog’s immune system. Ingesting fish oil may help prevent the disease from progressing and reduce the pain.
To help Momo get more comfortable, our vet suggested that we install ramps where needed and place pet or play mats in areas she frequents. Since muscle loss and constant pain is common in arthritis, ramps and pet mats reduce the traction required while walking on smooth floorings or climbing stairs.
Introducing an orthopedic foam dog bed was another suggestion and we also moved her to the ground floor.
We reduced Momo’s food intake; snacking between meals was a strict no. We also eliminated grains, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants from her diet and switched to homemade food that include celery, ginger, alfalfa and other foods that are known to help in arthritis.
Despite the pains, exercise is important. Dogs with arthritis especially, need to maintain an active lifestyle. This helps prevent further joint stiffening and keep the weight under control. Keep those regular walks around the park or a visit to the dog parks on even though your pet may eventually need assistance devices.
Above all else, love, patience, and support are what an arthritic dog needs and you don’t have to skimp on these.