Canine Arthritis and the Aging Dog

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Canine Arthritis and the Aging Dog

by Mike Mathews

As our dogs get older, they become subject to a number of age-related diseases like canine arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints characterized by a loss of cartilage that can cause increasing pain and disability as the dog grows older. Larger dogs are more susceptible either through inheritance or as a result of obesity. The joints that are usually affected are the hips, elbows and knees with the most prevalent being the hips. Treatments can be as simple as anti-inflammatory medicines and exercise or as complex as joint replacement. The first step in treating our beloved companion is to recognize the symptoms of age-related canine arthritis.

Arthritis Symptoms ? Arthritis is a progressive disease that becomes more severe over time. The early signs of arthritis are changes in your dogs? behavior and activity level. Many owners do not realize their dogs may be in some pain as a result of osteoarthritis. These arthritis symptoms usually include one or more of the following.

  • Your dog may refuse or be reluctant to go on walks or may show some discomfort and start to tire easily.
  • Your dog may be reluctant to go up or down stairs or jump up on his favorite couch.
  • You may also notice your dog has difficulty lying down or getting up. This may be more evident in the early morning when joint stiffness is usually at its worst.
  • Your dog may circle for a long period of time before lying down.
  • Your dog may limp when walking.
If you are starting to see one or more of these symptoms, it is time to discuss this situation with your veterinarian.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms he will probably discuss a pain management approach or a surgical approach.

Pain Management ? The goal is to decrease pain and slow down the progression of the arthritis while improving your dog?s quality of life. Your vet will probably suggest a treatment approach that includes, weight control, adaptive solutions, moderate exercise, pain medication and even non-prescription chondoprotective medicines. The dogs that suffer most from arthritis are those that are overweight. If your pet falls into this category then your first step is to slim down your pooch through diet and exercise. You should also look at adapting your daily routine to maximize your dog?s quality of life. This may be as simple as moving your daily walk from morning to evening when your dog is more limber. You may want to do two shorter walks to replace your normal long walk. You might also provide a ramp so your dog can climb up onto his favorite couch or bed more easily. You should consider moving your dog?s bed into the main level of the house so she doesn?t have to climb as many stairs. Moderate exercise is an important requirement in managing your dog?s arthritis. Swimming would be ideal if possible, as it exercises all the joints. Swimming may not be practical so many short daily walks is a good alternative. Your veterinarian may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medicines such as Aspirin, Carprofen or Etodolac to control the joint inflammation and pain. Some vets may suggest non-prescription chondoprotective medicines such as glucosamine and chondroitin. The FDA has also approved an injectable chondoprotective drug called Adequan that has had some success.

Surgery ? Surgery has become a viable alternative to treating the pain and disability of arthritis and even hip dysplasia. Complete hip or elbow replacements have become more common and quite successful. A partial hip replacement procedure called a Femoral Head Ostectomy, (where the head of the thighbone or ball is removed), has been very successful. A range of arthroscopic procedures involving joint ?washout?, cartilage repairs and ligament repairs are now available. In some cases knee, elbow, ankle or wrist joints can be fused to eliminate pain. The fused joint will cause the dog to walk with a limp but it will be without pain.

Arthritis can be managed to reduce your dog?s pain and improve the quality of her life. See for additional information on age-related canine diseases.

Mike Mathews is a contributing writer and editor for the popular dog breed site: Dog Breed Facts. He provides informative, real-world advice and tips on dog breeds, dog health, dog grooming and more. As well be sure to check out his new E-Book Choosing a Dog For Your Lifestyle

Mike Mathews - EzineArticles Expert Author

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