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What are Arthritis?

Studies show that one in five dogs suffer from arthritis. As a pet owner, you may feel that your aging dog is slowing down and becoming less active due to maturity. In fact, he may be experiencing joint pain. Arthritis is a chronic illness and can become debilitating. There are many ways to approach relieving your dog of arthritic pain. As pet owners, we must remember that canines are brave creatures who will often mask their discomfort. We have to be proactive, and take the initiative in caring for a dog who may have arthritis.

Arthritis is the most common source of pain for our canine friends as they age, but the condition can also be seen in very young dogs. A degenerative disease, arthritis most often results from everyday wear and tear on the joints. In order to preserve your pet’s quality of life, visit the veterinarian to receive advice and arthritis therapy.

Arthritis Average Cost

From 326 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,500

Average Cost

$300

Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs

The signs of arthritis in your dog may be very subtle. The most common indications are listed here.

  • Lameness and stiffness (especially after rest)
  • Slow gait
  • Difficulty in rising from rest
  • Lethargy and tendency to sleep more
  • Urinating indoors
  • Muscle atrophy (wasting away)
  • Swelling or heat may be evident
  • Pain, which may be vocalized when touched
  • Licking of joints
  • Gain or loss of weight
  • Depression
  • Nervous or aggressive behavior
  • Reluctance to jump, or to be active
Types

There are five types of arthritis in dogs, with two primary forms being most common.

  • Degenerative Joint Disease
    • This is also known as osteoarthritis
    • The condition occurs when there is friction between the bones because of the erosion of cushioning cartilage
    • Purebred dogs are known to have an increased tendency for DJD (for example hip dysplasia in German Shepherd)
    • Bone spurs can develop
  • Inflammatory Joint Disease
    • This can be caused by an infection
    • Single and multiple joints can be involved
    • It can also be the result of an inherited immune system flaw

Metabolic (bleeding into joints), crystalloid (crystals form in the joints), and neoplastic (joint cancer) are much more rare.

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Causes of Arthritis in Dogs

Arthritis can be very uncomfortable for your pet. With a variety of causes for the condition, you should always consult the veterinarian with concerns of lameness or behavioral changes in your dog.

  • Cartilage deficits
  • Previous injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament
  • Poor nutrition
  • Trauma after a car accident, penetration of joint by a sharp object, or bite
  • Infection in the joint
  • Stresses on the joint, such as those that may occur with a working dog
  • Disruption of cartilage, bone, synovial membranes, and ligaments that support a joint
  • Bacteria spread through the blood supply
  • Fungus
  • Tick-borne disease
  • Cartilage and lubricating fluid between the joints is damaged
  • Congenital joint disorders like elbow dysplasia
  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cushing’s disease
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Diagnosis of Arthritis in Dogs

Arthritis may be hard to detect at home because your furry family member can hide his pain and discomfort so well. The veterinarian has the knowledge and expertise to diagnose the problem, in addition to identifying any underlying disease processes that may be present.

The visit to the clinic will start with a physical exam. The veterinarian will look for the following signs of arthritis.

  • Crepitus (grinding of joint)
  • Abnormal bone formation or a roughness to the bone
  • Joint pain, tenderness, and swelling
  • Poor range of motion, possibly accompanied by pain
  • Muscle atrophy

A radiograph, done while your dog is under general anesthetic, can confirm arthritis. It must be noted that at times, contrast dye should be injected into the joint and then x-rayed for the best visual perspective.

Another useful diagnostic tool is the force plate analysis. In this test, a mat that has plate sensors is placed on the floor. Hooked up to a computer, the mat can analyze the force on each plate as the dog walks across it.

Aspiration of the joint fluid could be done to determine of the arthritis is of the degenerative or inflammatory type.

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Treatment of Arthritis in Dogs

The treatment for arthritis will involve a complete lifestyle change for your dog. Diet and exercise will be key in the maintenance of a good quality of life.

In the meantime, your veterinarian may start the treatment with a prescription for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). These will reduce pain and inflammation. An injectable medication, such as cortisone, could be recommended to reduce swelling and pain. Visco-supplementation is the action of injecting a gel-like substance into the joint to lubricate the cartilage, which then improves flexibility, and thus, lessens pain. Steroids are another option that the veterinarian could discuss. Glycosaminoglycans are often used as an aid for reducing the breakdown of cartilage.

Physiotherapy may be suggested to decrease scar tissue, improve mobility, and reduce pain. Studies have shown physiotherapy, chiropractic, and massage therapy have benefits for our canine friends suffering from arthritis.

Water therapy, known as hydrotherapy, involves treadmill work while the body is underwater. Putting no pressure on the joints and ligaments, the increased movement and the mobility achieved is wonderful for your pet.

Additional treatment plans that might be discussed are acupuncture, ultrasound therapy, laser therapy, magnetic therapy, and stem cell therapy. The veterinarian will have her preferred choice of protocol, and can advise you on which treatment will be the most effective to get your dog back to a more comfortable day to day existence.

Surgery is sometimes required, for instance in the case of a torn ligament. An arthroscopy may be done to clear up cartilage from between the joints. Of course, a primary treatment for arthritis will be identifying if there is an underlying disease which needs to be addressed along with the joint pain.

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Recovery of Arthritis in Dogs

Dietary management will be an important part of the arthritic care for your pet. Making sure that your canine family member is at a healthy weight for his bone structure is imperative. Excess weight will put unnecessary strain on the joints. Purchase food as recommended by the veterinarian; this will most likely be a food that has additional Omega 3 fats added.

Moderate exercise will help to reduce the pain that your dog is feeling. Increased mobility is paramount to pain resolution as the muscles supporting the joints will become more supple, and give greater support. This will, in turn, prevent further joint damage also. It must be noted that small increments of 15 to 20 minutes of exercise are recommended over extended sessions. Swimming is an excellent nonweight bearing activity for your dog. Just as important as exercise is assuring that your dog also enjoys significant rest periods each day, in an atmosphere conducive to healing. A warm, soft bed should always be available, and if needed, provide ramps for access in and out of your vehicle or as an alternative to stairs.

The veterinarian may ask you to bring your dog to the clinic every six months or so, in order to do blood tests. Monitoring of the efficacy of the medications, in addition to any side effects that may occur, is part and parcel of arthritis management. If the veterinary care team has a schedule of therapies to be administered, like water or laser therapy, be certain to attend all appointments. This will be the best way to see improvement in your beloved pet’s quality of life.

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Arthritis Average Cost

From 326 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,500

Average Cost

$300

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Arthritis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Ellie

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Blue Heeler

dog-age-icon

18 Months

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

We have a desexed female Australian Blue Heeler/Short Haired German Pointer Dog Mixed breed of 18 months of age and she has started lifting her back right leg and walking on three legs. She sleeps inside but we are having a very cold winter here in Queensland at the moment and it was minus 6 degree celsius overnight. This only lasts for a couple of meters and then she is back on all fours. She is on a special Eukanuba Diet as she has been allergic to fresh meat and bones. Apart from that she is a delightful happy little dog and I would appreciate your advice. I am worried she has hip dysplasia. The only other thing I can think of is that she has picked up a burr from the native grasses on our property. Thank you, Linda

July 15, 2018

Ellie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

It is possible that Ellie has something in her foot that is bothering her, or that she has larger problems. Since I cannot examine her or look at her foot or leg, it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian. They'll be able to give her a good examination, see if there is anything obvious causing this problem, and take x-rays if they are needed. I hope that this is something very simple and easy to fix for her!

July 15, 2018

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Jack

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Fox Terrier

dog-age-icon

12 Years

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Moderate severity

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3 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain In Hind Area
Yelping When Moving

I have a 12 year old fox terrier who has recently shown signs of arthritis and with a recent cold snap is clearly in pain again. Last vet visit we were given painkillers and told to come back if there were more issues. I have put him back on the painkillers and will return to the vet shortly as she wants to see him when symptoms are not severe. That's fine. He was on steriods for allergies for years until I found a diet that enabled me to stop them. He also showed early signs of cushings and has a heart murmur which isn't medicated. What treatment would we realistically be looking at seeing how it's high risk to sedate for xrays etc and there is all this history? And what's the best way to make him comfortable now?

May 29, 2018

Jack's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

If Jack responded to the pain medications and seemed more comfortable, that may be what he needs, on a long term basis. Most veterinarians would be fine to treat him with the pan medications, given his history and response to therapy. Without knowing more about him, I'm not sure what is the best for him, but that is something that you can discuss with your veterinarian.

May 29, 2018

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Bug

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Puggle

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11 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Walking Tenderly
Lethargy
Change In Behavior

We recently moved and our dog started acting strange. We went from carpet to hardwood floors, and at one point she hit her back on our coffee table. She has her good days and bad days.. When she’s good she’s playful and running around, but when she’s having a bad day she’s very mopey, lethargic, and walks with her back arched. She seems to have a hard time getting comfortable. The weather does seem to be a factor, especially when it changes quickly. She’s eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom fine. We’re not sure what to do to help and we want to do what we can until we can afford the vet visit.

May 17, 2018

Bug's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Until you can have Bug seen by a veterinarian, there really isn't anything that you can do at home other than keep her quiet and confined, and limit her exercise. She may have a back or neck injury that needs treatment, and back and neck pain can be quite painful. Many clinics to offer a 'free first exam' that would allow her to be seen and get started on treatment before her injury becomes worse. I hope that she is okay.

May 17, 2018

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Misha

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Border Collie

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5 Years

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Fair severity

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3 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

We’re not sure what’s causing our dog to limp occasionally on one back leg, more apparent after she’s woken up, runs and walks fine normally and wouldn’t notice anything but less weight and ‘meat’ on on her back half and pelvis area, and when jumping up can sometimes look like a slight struggle to get her back legs up. Not a huge fan of area being touched but will tolerate

March 4, 2018

Misha's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Without examining Misha, I can't determine what might be going on with her, but it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her, determine what might be going on, take x-rays if needed, and recommend any treatment that she might need to be comfortable. It is important to address this sooner rather than later, as you want to try and preserve as much muscle as possible in her hind end, and if she isn't using them, they will atrophy.

March 4, 2018

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Bell

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Daschund

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Panting
Joint Pain
Doesn'T Walk Or Get Up

I took my Bella to the vet a week ago because I she would no longer get up out of bed. She cried out when being touched and I worried that she might have had a slipped disc (because she has had these issues before). Once at the vet they took her X-rays and found no fractures or broken bones. The doctor informed me that the problem could be arthritis and prescribed Bella some medication. It has been a week now and she still does not get out of bed. I am worried that arthritis may not be the problem.

Feb. 10, 2018

Bell's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Without examining Bell and seeing some x-rays (possibly myelography) I cannot say what the specific cause is; if you are seeing no improvement you should return to your Veterinarian for an examination (or visit another Veterinarian) to determine if there is another cause of the symptoms she is displaying. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Feb. 10, 2018

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Troy

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Labrabull

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Stiffness

i have a labrador retriever, pit bull mix named troy, he is still active and loves to play with his toys however he is 8 years old and when he gets up from resting he can be very stiff and his arms and legs will often shake but once he stretches it stops. recently he makes noises when laying a certain way and i can’t decipher if it’s out of pain, we are making him an appointment to the vet however extra help and tips would be great

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Xaney

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Dachshund

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Tired
Thirsty
Clingy
Weight Gain
Less Active
Joint Swollen
Eating Habits Fluctuate

My daughter, Xaney (whom is about to turn 7 years old...) The fur on her front paws have whitened and sometimes look very swollen. (Sometimes not, and at others just the joint are swollen...) She tolerates me touching her "hands" but won't let me clip her finger nails. And I do not want to hurt her! She has been prescribed Novox (25mg Capsules, qty: 7; 7 days PRN) I had taken her to a vet because she wouldn't walk on her front left side. I've been told by a couple of friends to give her baby aspirin and other over the counter medications but I refuse to hear it, although I love my "friends" this is my baby we're talking about! "Hey Doc! Some advice here is needed, I hurt. And I don't know why?? Sometimes I just stare at my paws in confusion..." said Xaney. Sending you some of my finest cuddles & hugs! XxXx

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Oliver

dog-breed-icon

Yorkshire Terrier

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Tired
Wobbly
Sensitive

Over the last couple of days we noticed him being more tired, not wanting to jump on and off the bed, and not wanting to be touched. He will Yelp loud if you try to pick him up. He is eating and going to the bathroom just fine. No vomiting or anything. I have massaged him and he doesn’t seem to have outside physical pain. It’s more so when he is trying to move or walk. He is showing signs of arthritis.

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Chico

dog-breed-icon

Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Tired
Clingy
Yelping When Moving

I have a 5 year old chihuahua and he’s been limping, lazy, tired all the time and he’s been especially clingy to me lately. I’m not sure what the problem could be, to me or seems like it could be arthritis but I’m not sure.

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Whiskey

dog-breed-icon

Havanese

dog-age-icon

11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain When Lifted

Hello, I have a little Havanese dog (11.5 years old) who has arthritis on his shoulder , and Our vet prescribed Aspirin for him as a painkiller. Is Aspirin safe for dogs? We live in Iran and Veterinarian are not very up to date with the recent medications.....Any other suggestions for a painkiller in dogs ? I appreciate your help. Thanks, Samar

Arthritis Average Cost

From 326 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,500

Average Cost

$300

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