You can stop worrying - an arthritis diagnosis from the vet most definitely is NOT a death sentence. As our dogs age, they will face numerous ailments and conditions, including arthritis. In fact, arthritis is one of the most common degenerative diseases in dogs. Sometimes referred to as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disorder (DJD), arthritis affects your dog's joints and makes it more difficult for them to run, jump, walk, and play.
However, this doesn't mean they can't live a long and happy life! Thanks, in part, to advances in modern veterinary medicine, arthritic dogs can lead a pain-free life, full of romps in the park, mountain hikes, and tons of cuddles.
Signs of Arthritis in Dogs
Fact: Arthritis is one of the most common conditions seen in middle-aged to senior pets. While younger dogs can also develop arthritis, the most common cases are older pets. Arthritis can have an impact on your dog's life, but thankfully there is a host of treatment options to help ease their pain and increase their quality of life.
If you notice your dog is limping, having trouble getting up in the morning, is reluctant to move, has developed spinal issues, tires more easily, is irritable, has developed muscle atrophy, or is licking at a painful joint, he may have arthritis.
Different dogs will display varying behaviors, so it's important to always keep a watchful eye on your furry friend and make a mental note when they start to act different than normal.
History of Arthritis in Dogs
While the first known cases of arthritis in humans can be traced back to 4500 BC, the same cannot be said for dogs. In the late 1960s veterinarians began diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis in dogs, at which time numerous studies were published on the subject. Over time, we have seen an increasing number of cases of arthritis in dogs, which has given scientists and veterinarians alike an abundance of information to help them treat the condition.
Just like humans, dogs can gradually develop arthritis over time, as their joints can no longer withstand the regular wear and tear of everyday life. There are also numerous hereditary conditions and abnormalities that may contribute to a dog's likelihood of developing arthritis. Today, there are more than 100 types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis is the most common form seen in both humans and dogs.
Science Behind Dogs Developing Arthritis
Dogs develop arthritis as they get older as the cartilage and joints give way to regular wear and tear. Arthritis can also occur from obesity, congenital abnormalities, athletic injuries, and trauma. Just as in humans, the cartilage in a healthy joint provides a cushion between the bones.
When the cartilage becomes damaged or wears down, it can lead to joint pain, inflammation, and damage. Without the aid of cartilage, your dog's bones start to have issues and are susceptible to damage. In many cases, a dog's back legs are the first to go, which makes sense, because they use their back legs to jump - whether into a car, onto the furniture, or to catch that beloved frisbee.
Dogs who are highly-active are more at risk of developing arthritis, which seems a little unfair, doesn't it? Unfortunately, arthritis is a chronic condition that can be made worse by dogs that are overweight, as their joints have to support all of those extra pounds. While there is no cure for arthritis, there are a handful of things you can do to ease their discomfort and help them live a pain-free, happy life.
Training Your Dog to Live with Arthritis
Just because there is no cure for arthritis doesn't mean there aren't things you can do to support them. Since arthritic dogs typically have a hard time getting around and definitely struggle with going up and down stairs, the first thing you can do is make changes that will support them.
Move their bed to a more accessible spot, prevent them from jumping on and off furniture, use a ramp to help get bigger dogs into the car and lift smaller dogs in and out. Furthermore, ask your vet about starting them on a high quality joint supplement as well as Omega 3 and 9, which are great anti-inflammatory options.
Written by a Chihuahua lover Allie Wall
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 01/25/2018, edited: 04/06/2020