Stiff, sore achy joints, can you predict when the weather is going to change? Humans aren't the only ones who can suffer from arthritis. One out of five dogs also suffers from the condition. Arthritis is pain and inflammation and swelling in the joints and affects dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages. My 14-year-old dog Molly can sometimes predict the weather more accurately than the weatherman.
Signs that your dog may suffer from arthritis include limping, difficulty rising, stiffness, decreased activity, reluctance to run or climb stairs, and even changes in behavior such as aggression or withdrawal.
As I mentioned, arthritis can affect any dog of any age. However, certain factors can contribute to the condition such as age, breed, obesity, nutrition and previous injuries.
Arthritis comes in different types; therefore, a trip to the veterinarian is necessary for a proper diagnosis. The recovery may seem slow, but be sure to follow the direction of your vet. Relief can often be achieved with painkillers, exercise, rest and diet. There are several medications available from your vet that can relieve pain. You should never attempt to use any type of over-the-counter painkillers without the advice of your veterinarian. Corticosteroids (steroids) are commonly used for treating an arthritic dog.
Certain nutrients can greatly help your dog's condition including Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate, Shark Cartilage and Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
In addition to medication and supplements, here are some other things that you can do to help your dog.
Slip-free flooring. Harwood and tile floors are slippery and can be difficult for dogs to walk on. Place carpet or area rugs to help secure your dogs footing. This can help prevent him from slipping and injuring himself. We have had to do this in our household. A laminate floor in our kitchen posed a problem for Molly, so we have had to place area rugs down the center of the kitchen to the garage door. We refer to it as "Molly's Runway."
A soft bed. Provide your dog with a good bed such as egg crate mattresses. A bed with soft, thick padding will help cushion bones.
Ramps or cubes. Stairs and furniture can become difficult obstacles for your aging companion. Ramps of specifically designed cubes can help pets safely climb stairs, get in or out of bed or get in or out of the car. Ramps can be made of plastic or wood and are available from many pet sources. A product called "Puppy Stairs" are soft modular cubes that fit together in combinations that permit pets to climb up or down from beds or sofas.
Peace and quiet. As your dog ages, he may not be as tolerant or patient as he used to be. Sore joints make it difficult for your pet to enjoy rambunctious, playful children.
Massage. Massage can increase flexibility, circulation, calmness and a general sense of wellness, not to mention how much your pet will most likely enjoy it.
There are books and articles on how to massage your pet or ask your vet.. You may also want to look into a professional animal massage therapist (yes, they do exist!).
Weight control and dietary therapy. Arthritis is more of a problem for obese pets. Weight loss can be beneficial by helping to reduce the workload on the bones and joints.
Exercise. Moderate daily exercise can help some dogs. Special care is needed so follow what your veterinarian recommends. Exercise can strengthen the muscles and ligaments thus reducing the potential and risk of injury.
Extra time. Don't rush a dog with arthritis. It often takes them extra time to walk, climb stairs or get in and out of the car. Support and help them if needed or just be patient.
Elevated feeders. Raise your pet's food and water to help eliminate stress on the neck and back muscles.
Like people, dogs with arthritis can experience more discomfort when in a cold and damp environment, so try to keep your dog warm and dry. Although arthritis is not a life-threatening condition, it can certainly affect your dog's daily life.
Kathy Olak is a member of the Huron County Humane Society who writes a monthly column. The Humane Society investigates cases of animal abuse and neglect. The animal abuse hotline is (419) 663-7158.