As they age, dogs can develop arthritis just like their human companions. Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease. This occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints breaks down and becomes fragile. It can cause pain and interfere with all activities.
What is the Life Expectancy of a Dog with Arthritis?
Arthritis isn’t fatal, so your dog won’t die of it. Dogs with arthritis can live to their teens but may have a limited and painful life. As caregivers, our challenge is to keep our best friends active as possible. Be familiar with arthritis symptoms and risk factors so you can recognize and treat arthritis signs before they become incapacitating.
The risk factors for osteoarthritis in dogs include their size (larger breeds and overweight dog are more susceptible to developing joint pain), their age (the risk rises over time), and genetics (some breeds have joint abnormalities like hip dysplasia in Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherd Dogs). Stress and trauma injuries, inflammatory diets, diabetes, and tick bites can all be contributing factors.
Although symptoms of arthritis in dogs can vary depending on the patient, the majority of dogs will experience them as the disease progresses.
Intermittent lameness, “hopping” or three-legged gaitstiffness following rest or vigorous exercise. Normal stance when walkingreluctance or lack of interest. Joints that hurt or feel warm or tender to touch.
Dog Arthritis: Veterinary Treatments
This senior dog can be helped to maintain mobility by light exercise, under the guidance of a veterinary physical therapy. Stability is provided by custom knee braces. (See “Canine Knee Injury?” Brace Yourself,” WDJ Dec 2020 for more information on braces. dreamstime.com.
To rule out non-arthritic or physical injuries that could cause pain, a thorough veterinarian examination is necessary. The doctor will also recommend treatment options. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are prescription-based and can be used to relieve pain, such as carprofen or firocoxib. These are the best treatments for arthritis.
Amantadine is a N-Methyl–D-aspartate receptor antagonist, which is prescribed by more vets for severe and chronic arthritis. It works in conjunction with other drugs to relieve chronic pain (WDJ August 2022).
Your veterinarian might also recommend the following to help with dog arthritis relief:
nutritional supplementshydrotherapy (swimming or the use of an underwater treadmill)chiropractic adjustmentsacupunctureregular low-impact exerciselaser treatments
How to help a dog with arthritis at home
There are many things you can do at your home to help your dog with arthritis symptoms.
Help your dog lose weight. Although it sounds easy, this is one of your most important things to do to keep your dog active. Being overweight can cause joint problems. For overweight dogs, foods with moderate protein and high levels of fat are better than diets high in carbohydrate and low-protein.
Make sure your dog is well hydrated. Dehydration can cause joint problems. It is important to ensure your dog has access to fresh water at all times. Add small amounts of bone broth to encourage your dog’s thirst.
Extra padding should be provided for resting areas. Extra padding is a must for dogs who sleep an average of 12-18 hours per night. Some orthopedic mattresses have a memory foam base with a layer of gel memory, while others are egg-crate-shaped orthopedic foams, support foams, or layers of shredded memories foam. By increasing air circulation, egg-crate memory foam keeps sleeping dogs from overheating.
Make sure you measure your dog before purchasing an orthopedic mattress. Sturdy lightweight materials are generally easy to clean. Beds with removable, machine washable covers and waterproof liners are ideal for dogs with limited mobility.
Give traction. Shiny vinyl or polished wood floors can cause arthritis in dogs. Carpet or sisal grass runners should be used in hallways and other areas where your dog requires traction. Rubber-backed rugs can be placed around his food and water bowls to ensure that he doesn’t slip under his hind legs.
The bowl should be raised. A raised feeder is a good option if your dog starts to hesitate at the bowl or lose his balance while eating. Raised bowls are not recommended for all dogs as they can increase the likelihood of bloat. However, a raised feeding platform can be helpful for arthritic dogs who have difficulty reaching their food.
Get him moving! Include regular, but light exercise in your dog’s daily routine. Anarthritic dogs who are not active enough will lose muscle mass and make their joints less stable. Exercise builds and maintains muscle strength, aids in weight loss, and improves circulation to the affected joints. It is important to give your dog the benefits of exercise, but not too much. Too much exercise can cause injury or damage to the joints. This is where slow and steady are key. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations on activities that would be appropriate for your dog.
Use a harness. Attaching a leash or collar to your dog’s neck can cause strain on the neck muscles, and vertebrae. Attach the harness to your dog’s chest, or back instead. This will reduce the chance of injury.
Massage your dog! Massage is a great way to improve your dog’s health. See “10 ways you can improve your dog’s lymph circulation,” WDJ January 20, 222.
He needs your help. Dogs with arthritis can have difficulty climbing stairs and standing up from a position they are lying down. Dog-lift harnesses and slings for dogs with arthritis can relieve pain by lifting the dog’s hindquarters. Dogs can jump in cars, onto sofas or on the beds with ramps or steps.
Keep him warm. A sweater, jacket or heated dog bed is a good option to keep your joints warm in colder temperatures.
Useful Supplements for Dogs with Arthritis
You can also give your dog a variety of supplements, in addition to any prescription pain-relieving or anti-inflammatory medications prescribed by your veterinarian.
Glycosaminoglycans are the most recommended supplements for dogs suffering from arthritis. These nutraceutical supplements, also known as mucopolysaccharides (MGS), include glucosamine Sulfate, GSG HCl and Chondroitin sulfate. Sometimes, GAG supplements are taken from unprocessed sources such as green-lipped mussels and beef cartilage.
Mary Straus, a canine health researcher at dogaware.com says that GAGs are crucial because they protect the joint and not just reduce symptoms. They rebuild cartilage and restore synovial fluid. Although this is speculation, it is possible that GAGs could also be beneficial in preventing arthritis.
GAG supplements are best given in between meals. However, they can be fed with food if necessary. Straus advises that you start with high doses to see if your dog responds. Reduce the dose if you notice improvement. Try another supplement if you don’t notice any improvement in three to four weeks.
S-adenosylmethione, or “SAMe”, is a pain reliever compound that’s naturally found in the body. It helps regulate hormones as well as maintain cell membranes. Products with 200 mg of SAM-e will be suitable for dogs over 15 pounds.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring sulfur produced by ocean planktons and which is also found in cow’s milk, meat, sea vegetables, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Canine skin and coat problems, poor immune and digestive responses, joint pain, arthritis, joint pain, and joint discomfort can all be caused by sulfur deficiencies. MSM supplements can be purchased as capsules or powders. The recommended dosage for dogs is 50 to 100 mg per ten pounds of bodyweight.
Omega-3 fatty acid rich salmon and other fish oils reduce inflammation. This contrasts with the omega-6 fatty oils in polyunsaturated vegetable oil. Docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids (DHA) are two of the most important components in fish oils. These fatty acids block inflammatory cytokines, prostaglandins, and are then converted by the body to powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals known as resolvins.
Dogs are often prescribed Omega-3 supplements with 300mg combined EPA/DHA. You can give up to one gelcap daily for every 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight. If you are using a product containing 500mg EPA/DHA, 1 gelcap daily for every 15 to 20 pounds. Limit liquid fish oil intake to 300 mg combined EPA/DHA for every 10 pounds of bodyweight. Doses higher than 300 mg combined EPA/DHA can cause platelet dysfunction and increase bleeding. They also increase inflammation rather than decrease it.
Straus states that vitamin E must be supplemented whenever polyunsaturated fat acids (PUFAs) are given to dogs. For small dogs, you should give 7 to 8 international units per pound and for large dogs, 3 to 4 IUs. Equal amounts can be given less frequently. A 100-pound dog might receive 400 IUs per day, while a 10-pound dog may get 200 IUs every three to four days.
Bromelain and papain, as well as bromelain and amylase, are all common digestive aids that dogs can add to their meals to increase the absorption of nutrients. Anecdotal and clinical evidence support the use digestive enzymes with or without food. Enteric-coated enzymes can also be used between meals to treat arthritis.
Natural Remedies to Arthritis in Dogs
Is it possible to make your dog run and jump like a puppy by adding herbs to his dinner? The original pharmacy for animals and humans was the plant. Over thousands of years, cultures all over the globe have developed remedies that are still in use today.
You can find many studies that examine the effects of medicinal plants on arthritis patients by searching medical literature and the websites of educational institutions like the American Botanical Council (herbalgram.com). Although canine arthritis is a well-known topic in veterinary research, very few studies have looked at plant-based treatments for dogs.
An examination in Switzerland of 29 dogs suffering from degenerative osteoarthritis revealed that Indian frankincense resin (Boswellia Serrata) had a significant effect on the symptoms and mobility of more than 70% of those canine patients.
A randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted at the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 2014. It involved 32 dogs with arthritis diagnosed by x-rays and orthopedic examinations. Researchers developed a combination of Indian frankincense, devil’s claw root, and Indian frankincense. After eight weeks, the dogs were able to have the equivalent of one kilo more strength per paw. The dogs that were treated did not experience a decline in health, as opposed to the 25.8% who received a placebo. The placebo dogs were less active than the treated dogs, while they became significantly more active.
The most popular herbal products for dogs suffering from arthritis are cannabis (Cannabis indica), feverfew, turmeric (Curcuma longa), yucca and other Chinese herbal blends. Online retailers and pet supply shops carry a wide range of herbal products.
Follow the label instructions and do one course (typically 4 to 6 weeks), before you start another candidate treatment. Note any arthritis symptoms in your dog, such as whether she is able to jump on the couch or get in the car, and how long it takes for her to get up after a nap. Then, start a new treatment at week-end intervals.
A video of your dog playing, walking and turning before and after treatment is a great way to measure the effectiveness of any new product.
Assessing the Options for Treating Your Dog’s Arthritis
There are many options to choose from. It can be difficult to decide which one to give your dog. Based on 68 peer-reviewed papers, the journal veterinary records evaluated the effectiveness of treatments for canine osteoarthrosis in 2009. Strong evidence was found to support the effectiveness of NSAIDs for osteoarthritis treatment. The efficacy and safety of glycosaminoglycanpolysulphate (the injectable drug Adequan), the elk velvet, and food containing green-lipped mussel Perna canaliculus (a natural source for GAGs) were moderately supported.
However, studies did not find strong or insufficient evidence supporting the use of other treatments. All of the reports did not provide definitive answers as to what works or what doesn’t. They all concluded that more research is necessary.
This review demonstrates the insufficient amount of research that has examined the effectiveness of arthritis treatments for dogs. We who love our arthritis-prone dogs will continue to explore new treatments and combination of treatments.
Whole Dog Journal: How to Find Relief from Arthritis in Dogs