Arthritis is probably one of the most under diagnosed conditions in dogs, and yet successful treatment can do wonders for their quality of life.
Frequently the signs are simply ascribed to “old age” and it is only once your dog is on treatment and you see the difference, that one realises the extent to which arthritis was afflicting them.
General stiffness, slow to get up or lie down, and slowing or dragging on walks are key signs. Arthritic dogs battle on stairs and often can no longer jump up into the car.
There are a wide range of arthritis treatments available and the best results are achieved with a combination of multiple treatments. There are 3 major areas – Weight Loss, Controlled Exercise and Medications. Weight loss is a fantastic positive cycle – the more the dog loses, the easier it is to exercise and so the more it loses! Carrying excess weight makes it harder to cope, burdens the painful joints and accelerates the damage. Don’t simply try reducing what you feed – certainly cut out treats and left overs, but speak to your vet about a specialised weight loss diet. With controlled calories and special added ingredients such as L-Carnitine and Lysine, you’ll be amazed with the results and your dog won’t be constantly hungry.
Exercising within your dogs abilities is crucial. Calculate your walks to end BEFORE the point where your dog starts to lag behind. As they improve they’ll cope with longer distances. Little and often is key. Aim to exercise daily – it’s a case of use it or loose it. Prolonged complete rest will lead to muscle wasting and joints “seizing up”. Deep water swimming is an excellent exercise, especially as it takes the weight off the painful joints.
Medications encompass both prescription drugs, and non prescription supplements. Anti-inflammatory medications make a radical improvement. There are many good brands available and your vet can help you select the best for your dog. This is often based on the form they come in, as well as your budget. Common forms are syrup added to food, chewable tablets as well as traditional capsules or tablets.
Anti-inflammatories work both as direct pain killers as well as by stopping the inflammation of arthritis itself – hence they actually treat the problem rather than just masking the symptoms. Additionally we can improve the lubrication in joints, help control inflammation and change the course of the disease with injections of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). Once initiated, some dogs may only need a GAG injection every 3 months.
Glucosamine is a fantastic nutritional supplement that helps control arthritis. In fact since it is so safe, and due to its protective benefits, I recommend that any larger breed dog that is prone to arthritis should have daily Glucosamine from middle age onwards. Glucosamine works by keeping cartilage, the shock absorber of joints, healthy. It comes in many forms, such as powders and tablets, but it is best to look for a product that also contains Chondroitin, and also possibly MSM as well as other ingredients such as Vitamin C and Copper. Ethically I prefer to use products that DO NOT come from Shark Cartilage – Bovine Cartilage is just as good, is in plentiful supply, and does not support or encourage the senseless hunting of sharks.
Green Lipped Muscle Extract is another very popular and useful supplement. It works as a natural anti-inflammatory, and mostly comes in a powder form. Other supplements that can also help include Essential Fatty Acids such as those found in Fish Oils or Evening Primrose Oil. To simplify matters, there are now several excellent Joint Diets available that have many of these supplements already added. Sensibly they also focus on preventing obesity. And of course the little things help too. Keep them warm in the cooler weather and provide soft, non-slip bedding.
So through a combination of weight control, tailored exercise, special joint diet and anti-inflammatories, your dog can enjoy a new lease on life and win back their mobility. Don’t let them struggle any longer – speak to your vet today about arthritis.