It always amazes me how closely the dog world parallels the human world, in particular as you look at the challenges of getting older. Arthritis is a condition that exemplifies this as it is rampant across both the dog and human population. In Canada 1 in 6 people suffer from arthritis, and in the United States you are looking at 1 in 7.
Just as in the dog world, a key factor contributing to the continued rise in arthritis is longer lifespans. While finding statistics on dog arthritis is a bit more difficult, it is estimated that between 20-25% of the dog population suffers from arthritis. Given that there are more than 6 million dogs in Canada and roughly 77 millions dogs in the United States that would mean we have between 16-20 million dogs challenged with arthritis today. Can you imagine what that number looks like on a global scale?
What is Arthritis? In a nutshell, arthritis is a term used to describe joint inflammation. Since there are several causes of joint inflammation, there are also many different types of arthritis.
Just as in the human world, the most common type of dog arthritis is osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease), which is basically the deterioration of cartilage within joints. The cartilage acts as a shock absorber so as it thins, movement becomes painful and more difficult as stiffness sets in.
What are the Symptoms of Dog Arthritis?
- Limping or favoring one or more limbs
- Stiffness/slowness as your dog gets up
- Changes in how your dog sits
- Reluctance to go on walks
- Reluctance or inability to jump
- Excessive panting
- Sleeping more than usual
How do you Treat Dog Arthritis?
There are many different treatment methods to help find relief for your older dog. Some methods are traditional, but senior dog owners should also consider alternative treatment techniques.
The Medical Approach: Since dog arthritis can be painful, most vets will prescribe some form of pain killer and anti-inflammatory. Two common medications often prescribed are Metacam and Rimadyl. As with most prescription medication there can also be harmful side effects, so working with your veterinarian to find the best option is recommended.
Alternative Therapy: For those senior dog owners who have either tried medication and have not seen the results, or for those who fear the side effects may outweigh the potential benefits, rest assured there are many different types of non-invasive alternative treatments to explore. Growing in popularity are methods such as canine hydro-therapy, massage, acupuncture, and physio-therapy, which can make a significant difference for your older dog in terms of increasing mobility and reducing the pain and discomfort caused by arthritis.
Natural Supplements: Supplements can be an effective way to minimize the impact of dog arthritis. Two popular supplements are Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Glucosamine which are believed to help maintain joint health and improve mobility. In addition to the above mention treatment options here are some valuable tips to consider:
Watch your Dog's Weight: A common problem that happens when a dog's mobility is reduced is weight gain, which further complicates their condition. The more weight placed on the dog's joints, the more intensified the symptoms will be. Ensuring that your dog receives a healthy, balanced diet can make a huge difference in this area.
Keep your Dog Active: Making sure that your dog continues to exercise is also important to reduce the overall symptoms and keep your dog mobile. While your older dog may not be able to walk the distances they once used to, they should still remain active. Finding the right balance of rest and exercise will go a long way in keeping your senior dog healthy.
Look to Innovation: Certain products can also help in maintaining your dog's mobility. Dog strollers allow you to continue to take your dog on long walks by letting them walk when able and rest when needed. A dog stroller is also particularly great when you have another dog who may not have mobility issues. Instead of leaving your older dog behind, or worse, instead of not going at all, a dog stroller lets you take both dogs for the exercise they need.
A dog wheelchair is another important product that can give the gift of mobility to older dogs suffering from arthritis. If the dog's front legs are still strong then a dog wheelchair will encourage mobility by providing the much-needed stability, while still allowing the dog to use their rear legs.
Dog slings represent an affordable walking aid that offer either rear support or mid-torso support for dogs with leg weakness. As our dogs get older and face the challenges that come with age, we as owners need to put the time and effort into finding the best ways to provide relief and improve their quality of life.
The best news of all is that we have options to make this happen. Getting older can be a happy fun-filled time in the life of you and your senior dog, so don't let the effects of age stop you from doing the things you both love to do.