As your dog gets older, they might have trouble getting around like they used to. Some dogs have difficulties climbing the stairs, running around outside, rolling over, and engaging in strenuous exercise. It’s normal for your dog to lose some mobility as they get older, particularly when they enter their advanced years. However, it’s not normal for your dog to be in so much pain that it can’t perform basic tasks.
Have you noticed that your dog seems to be limping, lying around more often, acting strangely, or relieving themselves in the house? Some guardians assume that mental abilities of the animal are declining, but they might be suffering from a physical condition like osteoarthritis (or arthritis). Osteoarthritis in dogs is a progressive condition that gets worse with age. There’s no cure for osteoarthritis, but you could manage your dog’s pain and encourage a healthy lifestyle to slow the progression of the disease. You could also massage your dog’s joints, give them extra padding and provide other treatments around the home.
Osteoarthritis in dogs can affect the quality of life, but it’s not a death sentence. Many dogs live normal lifespans after their vet diagnoses them with osteoarthritis. If you take care of your dog, you might have many years left with your beloved pooch. Here’s what every owner needs to know about osteoarthritis in dogs.
How Do You Know if Your Dog Suffers From Osteoarthritis?
While it’s best to catch osteoarthritis in dogs during its early stages, symptoms normally don’t show until the disease has already progressed. Here are some of the common symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs:
- The apparent loss of energy and no interest in daily activities
- Relieving themselves in the house even if they’re housebroken
- Limping or slow walking
- Reduced mobility
- Irritability for no apparent reason
- Reluctance to be touched or petted
- Stiff or inflamed joints
- Difficulty getting up
- Increased sleeping or lying around the house
- Trouble jumping, running, or climbing the stairs
- Pain for no apparent reason
- Decrease in muscle mass
- Licking or chewing sore joints
- Weight gain related to the energy loss
Talk to your vet if your dog exhibits any of these symptoms. Even if you’re in doubt, it’s better to get your dog checked out as early as possible.
Can Young Dogs Develop Osteoarthritis?
As your dog gets older, they’re more likely to develop osteoarthritis. However, virtually any dog can develop arthritis. Whether your dog is two years old or getting close to thirteen, staying active is the key to slowing the progression of the disease. Don’t assume that your dog is “safe” just because they’re young–it could happen to anyone.
Does Osteoarthritis Reduce Your Dog’s Lifespan?
Osteoarthritis in dogs itself isn’t a death sentence. It can make your dog’s final years a little more challenging, but if you work with your vet to manage the symptoms, your dog can live a full and happy life. However, you’ll need to keep up with your dog’s treatments to maximize their quality of life. Keep in mind that you can’t stop the progression of the disease–in the end, your vet might suggest putting your dog down if they can’t enjoy life anymore. With your vet’s help, you might be able to delay that conversation for as long as possible.
What Causes Osteoarthritis in Dogs?
Every dog has the potential to develop osteoarthritis, but some dogs are more predisposed to develop osteoarthritis than others. Some breeds like Labradors and German Shepherds are more likely to develop arthritis as they get older. Your dog’s size could also make them more likely to develop joint pain and inflammation. For example, large dogs like golden retrievers often have joint issues later in life. If you haven’t already, do some research on your dog’s breed to see what conditions might affect them in their later years.
Your dog might develop osteoarthritis if it suffered a severe injury at any point in time. Breaks, fractures, and tears could cause permanent damage to their joints. Similarly, infections like Lyme disease might come back to haunt your dog in their later years. If your dog puts a lot of stress on certain joints, it might develop arthritis after years of wear and tear.
Your dog’s lifestyle can play a major role in their joint health. If they’re obese and don’t get a lot of exercises, they’re more likely to develop osteoarthritis than a fit, lean dog that stretches their muscles regularly. Additionally, obesity and poor health could worsen the symptoms of osteoarthritis, reducing your dog’s quality of life in their final years. It’s important to keep your dog in shape no matter how young (or old) they are.
Unsurprisingly, age is a big factor. Even if your dog stays in shape, its muscles, joints, and ligaments gradually break down over time. You can ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis, but you can’t prevent it entirely. Luckily, a fit and the healthy dog will probably have an easier time than an obese, lethargic one. Technically, dogs can develop osteoarthritis at any age, but it’s much more common in senior dogs.
How Do You Treat Osteoarthritis in Dogs?
Your vet could recommend a number of treatments for your dog’s osteoarthritis. Here are a few different treatments that you might want to practice at home.
It might sound counterintuitive, but exercise could reduce your dog’s pain, swelling, and inflammation. If your dog is in the late stages of osteoarthritis, it probably won’t be able to tolerate as much exercise as a younger dog. However, you could give them mild exercises that stretch their muscles and joints and help them retain some mobility. Otherwise, the disease might accelerate when you let your dog stops moving.
CBD isn’t just for humans. Many guardians give their dogs CBD to reduce pain and inflammation, improve their mood and help their dogs relax at the end of the day. CBD comes in tinctures that you add to your dog’s food as well as creams and ointments that you rub directly onto their joints. Just make sure you buy a CBD product made specifically for dogs. Human CBD isn’t suited for their biology and might not have an appetizing flavor.
Your vet might recommend “human” medication like ibuprofen as well as pain medication made specifically for dogs. Some options include steroid injections, opioids, and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.) NSAIDs can be effective, but your vet might be hesitant to prescribe them because they come with severe side effects. Some dogs react well to NSAIDs while others die from catastrophic illnesses like organ failure. If your vet prescribes NSAIDs, you’re probably at the point where all you can do is manage your dog’s pain as much as possible.
Supplements Like Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Dietary supplements tend to have fewer side effects than medication, especially NSAIDs. You could give your dog natural supplements with nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids that promote joint health. Many popular supplements include green-lipped mussel, which supposedly reduces inflammation and gives your dog extra nutrients. Just make sure you avoid supplements that could trigger your dog’s allergies, if applicable.
For extreme cases, your dog could undergo surgery to repair or replace its joints. Surgery isn’t cheap, but it could prolong your dog’s lifespan or improve its quality of life. You might have to find a specialist if your vet can’t perform the surgery at their clinic.
In the meantime, make your house as comfortable as possible for your dog. Add more padding to their bed, or invest in a bed made specifically for aging dogs. If you have stairs in your house, buy a ramp or add extra padding. Add nonstick flooring to tile, wood floors, and other slick surfaces to keep your dog from slipping and injuring themselves even further.
You might be surprised to learn that some clinics offer massages for dogs with arthritis. If you can’t find one in your area, look them up online. You could also lookup massage techniques online, but don’t try anything without talking to an expert first. You could accidentally injure your dog and make their arthritis even worse.
A heating pad or hot water bottle could ease your dog’s aching joints. Just make sure you observe your dog while they use their heating pad so they don’t get overheated.
Reiki, acupuncture, and other alternative therapies could relieve your dog’s pain and inflammation. They’re not a substitute for exercise and medication, but you could use alternative therapies in conjunction with the treatment that your vet recommended. If nothing else, they might help your dog relax, which relieves pain in and of itself.
If your dog is overweight, the extra weight might accelerate the progression of arthritis. Feed your dog a healthy, balanced diet to help them lose weight and relieve the extra pressure on your joints. It can be hard to get your dog to exercise if they’re in the later stages, but you could cut out fattening foods and other problems that contribute to their weight. Overweight dogs are also more likely to develop arthritis in the first place.
How Do Veterinarians Diagnose Osteoarthritis in Dogs?
When you take your dog to the vet, they might run some tests to rule out other possibilities. Your vet might evaluate your dog’s mobility, check for joint pain, and see if your dog vocalizes or seems to be irritable. They might ask you about the symptoms that you’ve noticed at home. While your dog can’t tell the vet how they feel, your vet can gauge their pain and stress level by observing their reactions.
How Can You Prevent Osteoarthritis?
Arthritis might not be completely preventable, but it’s never too early to reduce the risk. The best thing you can do is make sure your dog lives a healthy lifestyle. Give them plenty of exercises, set up challenges for them to complete, feed them a healthy diet and actively engage with your dog as much as possible. Telling them to run around the yard for a while won’t help much, but games of fetch and tug-of-war keep your dog stimulated.
Good training is the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. When you train your dog to calm down, be patient, and obey their guardian, they’ll enjoy low levels of stress throughout their lifespan. Don’t be afraid to talk to a specialist or an expert dog training when you get stuck. Training your dog isn’t just good for you— it also helps you make the right decisions for your dog.
There’s no cure for arthritis, but you can slow the progression and possibly prevent it altogether. As always, the key is giving your dog a healthy diet and plenty of exercise throughout its life. If your dog develops arthritis anyway, your vet could recommend a number of treatments like surgery, diet supplements, and medication. You could even visit a massage clinic for your dog. Your dog might not be able to get as much exercise, but you could help them stay fit if you manage your expectations. Even mild exercise could help an aging dog feel better.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do dogs live with osteoarthritis?
If they get the right treatment, most dogs live a normal lifespan after their vet diagnoses them with osteoarthritis. However, if the dog doesn’t seem to respond to treatment, the increasing pain might make it impossible to live comfortably. As a result, their guardian might have to put them to sleep.
How is osteoarthritis treated in dogs?
There’s no cure for arthritis, but your veterinarian could prescribe medication to reduce pain and inflammation. Exercise and a healthy diet might slow the progression of the disease, although nothing stops it entirely.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed in dogs?
Your vet might run a few tests to determine whether your dog has arthritis. They might evaluate your dog’s flexibility, muscle strength, and pain levels when they apply pressure to the joints. Your vet could also talk to you about the symptoms that you’ve noticed at home.
Does arthritis shorten a dog’s life?
Arthritis itself doesn’t necessarily shorten a dog’s life, but some guardians have to put their dogs to sleep if they can’t manage the pain. Fortunately, your dog could recommend several treatments that help your dog make the most out of its remaining years.