In this post I’m going to be writing about arthritis a terrible condition that effects most dogs at some point in their lives, we’re going to look at:
1. What is arthritis?
2. Does my dog have arthritis?
3. What can be done?
4. What does the future hold?
5. Quick guide to arthritis treatment.
So lets begin.
1. What is arthritis?
Arthritis is simply, inflammation of a joint, or joints. Arthritis is not a single medical condition, it can be used to describe many conditions, but in this article we will be focusing on the more common forms. However most of the content in this post will apply to many types of arthritis especially when looking into reducing inflammation.
2. Does my dog have arthritis?
Now there are a few things to understand osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but it’s also not a death sentence by any means, as humans we often think of arthritis as a crippling disease that means an end to all activity and your life beyond sitting in a chair. This is in no way true even with arthritis a happy, active life is very much possible.
A great example of this in humans is Kristin Armston, Olympic Gold Medalist and arthritis sufferer. Kristin suffers from osteoarthritis in both of her hip joins. You can read more about Kristin here.
So don’t be too upset! even with arthritis your dog can enjoy a great life!
One point that may have you puzzled is, arthritis is NOT age related, many young people do have arthritis it’s just more common in older people due to wear and tear, however accidents do cause arthritis.
Diagnosing arthritis requires Xray but there are some symptoms that can give you a good idea.
Does your dog suffer stiffness when getting up after rest? specifically after heavy exercise? This will always be some kind of inflammation, it could be muscle inflammation, tendon, but it could also be arthritis.
Jumping’s not so easy anymore, getting into the car, upstairs, onto sofas isn’t as easy as it used to be, the dog stutters when trying to perform these kinda of things, or fails completely.
Lack of fluid movement, your dog doesn’t stretch out when it runs, like it used to, it’s movement seems less fluid.
These are all signs your dog could have arthritis but you need to seek veterinary care for a better diagnosis, but any of these three signs would be worth mentioning to your vet.
3. What can be done?
First off, you need to understand there is no cure, it’s horrible to have to accept but there is absolutely no cure for arthritis.
The main treatment is a NSAID(non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) called Metacam, Metacam acts to block the body from producing the inflammatory effect, as well as acting as a pain killer to increase the dogs quality of life. While very effective long term use to Metacam has come very negative side effects such as internal organ damage. This is something that needs weighing up by both yourself and your vet.
Cartrophen is a drug that can be injected in the effected area by a vet. It works by attempting to interferer with the process of arthritis on a number of fronts. Usually Cartrophen is injected four times in one week and can be given up to three times a year. Most reports are showing that Cartophen is having a positive effect on their dogs arthritis. It’s worth discussing this option with your vet.
There are an array of supplies on the market making claiming to treat arthritis, unfortunately most of these have little to no medical evidence. Even some of the more commonly heard of and known supplements have no medical basis for any claims to treat, any condition.
I’m going to write about some of the more common and less well known, from a medical point of view, understand that the Placebo effect, does not effect dogs, however it does effect their owners, everyone wants to believe that magic pill is working and often see improvement just because they want to.
While very widely sold, the only major trail to ever test chondroitin has found it to have very little to no effect on Osteoarthritis, and no medical basis for this to be used in treating any ailment. However chondroitin is very safe to take, so it’s unlikely to do any harm.
Certainly the most famous supplement for treating arthritis. Trials have had varied results, but generally show little to no effect has been shown. Again with chondroitin it’s very safe to take, so if you wanted to give it to your dog for that small effect that could be present by all means go ahead.
Theres little evidence for or against it’s use, some researchers do believe it may have an anti inflammatory effect. To much MSM can be dangerous to your dogs health.
Green Lipped Mussel
Another very common product is Green Lipped Mussel, containing a combination of acids that could help to repair damaged joints, however the evidence of it actually working in humans(as there are no respected canine studies) tends to show little to no benefit to arthritis sufferers.
Supplements in General
One of the huge factors against supplements is that they simply make assumptions, things such as shark cartilage being taken on the assumption that eating cartilage creates cartilage is very far fetched, things like chondronitin may contain sugars that build cartilage but this in no way means your body will create new cartilage as a result. It’s like eating an animals heart, to cure a heart attack.
Now on to things that have a little bit more proof or are worth a mention.
Fish oils contain Omega 3 and 6, these are both essential for your dogs health and are a great addition to any canine diet, Fish oils are also proven to educe symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in humans. Salmon oil is certainly the best choice, and please avoid Cod oil, it contains too much vitamin A for the average canine as pet foods tend to be high in vitamin A.
A tree grown in regions of Africa and Asian known as Boswellia is showing some promise in reducing inflammation, however any studies on Bosweillia are still in their infancy. I’m not aware of any side effects to the long term use of Bosweillia.
Devils claw is a herb that has some evidence of pain relief and anti-inflammatory effects beyond that of a Placebo. Please be warned though that Devils Claw does have other effects that could have a negative impact depending on your dogs medical condition, so please ask your vet before using Devils Claw. Consider just using it before/after longer than normal exercise rather than long term.
Coming from the Ginger family of plants is Turmeric, often used in Indian curries but now there is evidence to support it’s use as an anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Studies have been limited, so it’s one to keep an eye on.
White Willow Bark(Salix Alba)
Some smaller studies have concluded that White Willow Bark may reduce pain in arthritis sufferers. However more studies on a larger scale are required. White Willow Bark can interferer with other drugs and you should consult a vet before giving to your dog.
Proven to give some anti-inflammatory relief in rheumatoid arthritis in limited studies. However Rose Hip contains a lot of vitamin C so if your dog experiences diarrhea your giving them too much.
Arthritis is not so much about removing all exercise from your dogs life, but keeping it nice and even. Usually you will find negative effects happen when the dogs taken on an usually long walk, or usually intense activity. You cannot take a dog out for 10 minutes a day Monday-Friday, then for a 3 hour run on Saturday, this will flare up any inflammation or stiffness in quite an intense way.
Warm your dog up, before heavy exercise and avoid bitter cold. Tendons, Ligament and muscles all work poorly when cold, any part of the muscular system that stretches works better when it’s warm. So keep your dogs warm, use clothing or avoid the cold.
Memory Foam Dog Beds
I’m not sure on any studies done in regards to this, but anything that acts by reducing pressure on joins and spreading it more evenly sounds like a great idea to me.
Gently stretching your dogs limbs can work well in building stronger tendons and muscles to improve join support. I’m not going to too much into this, but there are a lot of books on Amazon etc, that go into canine stretching. Just avoid any resistance, never force anything, make sure your dogs warm and always take it slowly.
Inflammation of any of your dogs body parts, can be reduced with Ice, simply apply an ice pack genitally to the joint your dogs suffering with for a short amount of time. 30 seconds at a time is great, this would be an ideal treatment while your dogs sleeping after a long walk. Do not apply ice before activity.
Over weight dogs, cause more pressure on their joins, if your dog is in anyway over weight you must put it on a strict diet. Loosing weight will provide less joint problems, being over weight is a huge contributing factor to having arthritis.
4. What does the future hold?
The future for your dog is good, while arthritis does cause joint degeneration pets can still enjoy an active, happy life. Dogs in general are very strong willed and don’t let things get them down.
It’s always important to judge treatments based on your dogs quality of life, side effects etc may sometimes seem bad, but if your dogs just able to sit in it’s basket otherwise, then you need to decide what gives your dog a higher quality of life.
The future for arthritis looks quiet bright, stem cell research appears that it could one day hold a cure, so fingers crossed that one day in the future dogs and people alike will be treatable. We did write an article on stem cells in dogs.
Please note: Herbs can interfere with drugs so always consult your veterinarian before giving them any kind of herb. If any negative symptoms are experienced cease immediately. Always consult your veterinarian before using any kind of product or technique that will have a medical effect.
5. Quick Guide to Arthritis Treatment
* If your dogs over weight, reduce their food.
* Keep the dogs exercise consistent.
* Use ice packs a few hours after heavy exercise.
* Warm your dog up before exercise, as well as gentle stretching.
* Give fish oils and a quality diet.
* Consider a memory foam pet bed.
If you have experience with any of the items discussed or tips for owners suffering with arthritic dogs please leave a comment below.
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