Like humans, dogs may suffer from arthritis as they get older or as a result of an injury to a joint. This article examines ways in which you can recognise and treat this ailment so that your pet can enjoy their later years as much as they deserve to.
What is it?
The term arthritis is generally used to describe the inflammation of a joint brought about by a joint disease where the cartilage which lines the bones becomes thin and scarred. The resulting friction leads to inflammation and the capsule around the joint thickens and forms rough new bone which is painful and also decreases mobility.
Typical symptoms of arthritis can vary and can be difficult to spot as they often come on gradually, in fact some dogs may show no symptoms at all. For those that do, classic signs include lameness, stiffness and difficulty getting up and moving about especially first thing in the morning or on damp days. Some dogs may be more reluctant to play or have visible swelling in their joints or may favour one side over the other when walking. Others may simply lick one joint repeatedly and wear the skin off or may become less tolerant to other pets or children. It is important that, whatever the symptoms, if you suspect that your dog has arthritis (even if they are young) that you get them examined by a vet.
Although unfortunately arthritis in dogs cannot be cured, it can however be treated to minimise the pain. If your dog is overweight they are far more prone to arthritis. In this case it is important to feed them a low fat, low calorie dog food such as those supplied by Arden Grange, Royal Canin or James Wellbeloved.
It is important that you exercise your dog but not too much. If your dog is in pain, start small and build up to a level where they are not stiff afterwards. It is better to take them for two or three short walks a day than one long one. If your dog likes to swim, a trip to the local river in the summertime is a great idea as the water allows the dog to exercise whilst bearing their weight for them.
If the pain is very bad, it is possible to get anti-inflammatory drugs similar to those used for humans. It is vital however that you do not attempt to give your dog human medication as ibuprofen is extremely toxic to dogs. In the UK vets tend to prescribe Metacam and Carprieve, both of which are better given with food or an injection of Cartrophen which improves the function of cartilage and decreases inflammation. Cartrophen will usually be given in a four week course every 6 months to two years.
There are a number of alternative methods which can be used to improve discomfort in your dog. Food supplements such as evening primrose oil, selenium and zinc have all been used with some success. Glucosamine for example has been used very successfully in humans and dogs to improve arthritis. Some dog foods include this as a supplement or alternatively consult your vet or buy directly from on line pet supply stores.
There are also some more unusual methods which have been shown to have some positive effects on symptoms such as homeopathic treatments like Bryonia, Rhus tox and Apis mel, acupuncture and a magnetic +Bioflow collar'. Finally, the Emotional Freedom Technique a form of acupressure/ acupuncture without the needles has been used with a great deal of success in bothg humans and dogs.
Whichever method you choose, it is important that you keep your dog healthy. Ensure that their weight is kept down, give them regular gentle exercise and give them a comfortable well-padded dog bed to protect their joints. This will ensure that your dog will be as comfortable as possible.
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