Arthritis in dogs is very common, particularly as they get older.
You might notice that your dog doesn’t climb the stairs as quickly as he used to or that running by your side is no longer an option. The usual culprit is arthritis.
Just like humans, arthritis is a result of damage to the cartilage.
In a normal dog, each joint has cartilage that works as a buffer between the bones. When the cartilage within a joint becomes damaged, the result is arthritis.
Arthritis can occur in any joint in your dog’s body, but the most common places are the elbows, hips, shoulder, knees, ankle and lower back.
Arthritis is much more common in dogs than in cats since dogs are more active which puts more pressure on their joints.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
Arthritis is sometimes hard to detect in the early stages. As it progresses, some of the common symptoms are the following:
- Avoidance of running or reluctant to climb stairs
- Lethargy, sleeping more often, tires quickly
- Difficulty jumping on the couch
- Does not play as often or enjoy it
- Weight gain
- Limited movement
- Changes in appetite
- Depression, grouchy
- Irritated easily
- Starts to poop in the house
Causes of Arthritis in Dogs
While the most common cause of your dog developing arthritis is the aging process, there are also some other causes include:
- Joint injuries
- Diabetes and other metabolic disorders
- Joint Diseases or Infections
- Hip Dysplasia
Diagnosis of Arthritis in Dogs
Once you see the symptoms of arthritis, it is important to take your dog to the vet for a full diagnosis.
Arthritis alone might not be the only cause of the symptoms that your dog is exhibiting.
Your vet will want to know about how your dog has been behaving and will probably feel around and try to manipulate your dog’s joints to see if there is any cracking or grating of the joints.
X-rays are generally the best way to diagnose arthritis.
Your vet will probably have your dog walk around the room to see where arthritis seems to be occurring.
Treatment of Arthritis in Dogs
There are many of the same treatment options for arthritis in dogs as there are in humans.
The goal is to minimize the dog’s pain while increasing the movement level and to slow down the joint damage and, if possible, repair the cartilage.
Your vet will give you the best treatment recommendation for your dog, but the most common are the following:
- Prescription Pain Medication
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
- Nutritional Supplements
- Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Omega-3 fatty acids
- Cortisone or Steroids – should only be used short term
- Special Diet
- Physical Therapy
- Surgery – In extreme cases
- Weight management
Any jumping or vigorous play should be avoided.
Can Pet Insurance Help With Your Dog’s Arthritis?
While some of the costs of arthritis are not that expensive, the therapy will be on-going for the duration of your dog’s life.
Pet insurance will save you money on your prescription costs as well as other non-invasive treatments like acupuncture and massage.
Healthy Paws, for example, includes alternative therapy options in all their plans such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and physiotherapy.
If your vet decided to start your dog on prescription medication, there will be follow up test on your dog’s liver and kidneys’ to make sure they haven’t been negatively affected by the medication.
Some of the prescription medications can run from $25 to $100 a month.
Pet insurance can be used to offset the costs of all these diagnostic tests.
And in extreme cases, if your dog needs surgery, the bill can be a minimum of $10,000.
Of course, you need to be enrolled in a pet insurance plan before the arthritis is considered pre-existing so you can be covered!
The best prevention of arthritis or any other condition is to keep up with your veterinary visits to catch the symptoms before arthritis becomes severe.
Once the symptoms of arthritis set in, there is no cure, but you can work with your veterinarian to minimize your dog’s pain.
How to Manage Your Dog’s Arthritis
The best way to manage your dog’s arthritis is to make your dog’s home more comfortable and easily accessible.
Some of the ways you can help your dog’s joint pain are the following:
- Massage the arthritic joint or joints
- Car ramps or even a ramp to your bed helps your pup
- A comfortable cozy bed
- Make sure the food and water bowls are easily accessible
- A supportive harness can help when walking
- Minimize the jumping
- Light exercise
While it’s hard for you to see and can be painful for your dog, with the right treatment and comfortable home environment, your dog can continue to live a long, happy life.
If you are looking for an insurance plan that will cover alternative treatments before your dog exhibits any signs of arthritis, our top 10 pet insurance companies is a great place to start!