One of the most common chronic medical conditions people face is arthritis; however, it is important for everyone to note that arthritis is a problem that impacts pets as well as people. Dogs are members of people’s families and it can be heartbreaking to see a dog living in pain. Sadly, this is exactly the situation that arthritis creates.
What Causes Arthritis in Dogs?
Arthritis is an inflammatory condition in which the body’s immune system is sent into overdrive. When this happens, inflammation gets out of control. This leads to the body breaking down its own cartilage that is meant to cushion the joints. Without this cartilage, the surfaces of multiple bones start to rub up against each other. This leads to bone degradation, pain, and further inflammation which only makes the problem worse.
For this reason, it is critical for pet owners to know how they can help a dog that is struggling with arthritis. With a well-rounded approach that targets arthritis from multiple directions, pet owners can improve the quality of life of their dog, placing a smile on his or her face once again!
1. Regular Dog Checkups Are Critical
One of the most important parts of managing a chronic medical condition in a dog is preventative care. All dogs need to see a veterinarian at least once per year. This allows the vet to monitor a pet for the development of arthritis.
Often, through physical exams and lab work, a vet is able to notice signs and symptoms of arthritis before the pet owner realizes that something is wrong. This allows the vet to get the dog started on a treatment plan that can slow the progression of the condition, providing a dog with a markedly improved quality of life. A vet can also track arthritis once it has been diagnosed, altering the treatment plan when it is necessary.
2. Weight Control Is Key
Keeping dogs slim and fit has been one of the most effective solutions when it comes to the management of arthritis. The treatment of arthritis focuses on reducing inflammation and removing stress from the joints. With the right diet, both of these tasks can be accomplished.
Pet owners need to make sure they invest in food that is going to keep their dogs slim. By losing weight, the joints will not have to work as hard. In addition, there are specialized diets that can reduce the amount of inflammation throughout a pet’s body. This will slow the degradation of cartilage and remove stress from the overworked joints of a dog with arthritis.
3. Invest in Physical Therapy for Dogs
Pet owners can also work with veterinarians to identify physical therapy routines that are meant for dogs with arthritis. While it might sound counterintuitive to have dogs exercise when their joints are in pain, controlled exercise is critical. This exercise is important because it will strengthen the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in and around the joints.
The stronger these tissues are, the less work the bones are going to have to do. This means that the joints will be given an opportunity to rest and heal. When possible, try to ensure that dogs are playing on a solid surface. This will reduce the chances of pets suffering an injury while walking, running, or playing.
4. Trust a Dog Lift Harness
Another effective treatment option for pets with arthritis is a dog lift harness, such as the EZ Lift hand-held harness by K9 Carts. This is a device that has been designed to wrap around the dog’s body with a long handle on the other side.
The major benefit of a dog lift harness is that it provides pet owners with a way to remove a significant amount of stress from a dog’s limbs, especially when standing up or pushing on the rear limbs.
The pet owner can help lift up their dog, which helps remove some of the gravitational weight from the dog’s legs, hips, or spines. This lifting action also increases the amount of space between the joints. This prevents the bony surfaces from rubbing against each other, reducing pain and inflammation.
There are a few situations in which dog lift harnesses are especially helpful. This includes helping dogs go up or down a set of stairs, assisting dogs that have trouble getting into the car, and helping dogs go to the bathroom. For dogs with arthritis, these tasks can be particularly difficult. A dog lift harness can make them substantially easier.
5. Rely on a Dog Wheelchair
Of course, a dog wheelchair is going to be a better option for some dogs. There have been numerous advances made in the area of canine wheelchairs over the past few years. This makes dog wheelchairs more versatile, durable, and comfortable than ever before. A perfect example of these advances is the RX Dog Wheelchair by K9 Carts (click here to learn more).
Some of the benefits of dog wheelchairs include improved posture, pain relief, increased activity level, and greater mobility. Furthermore, these wheelchairs are incredibly versatile and can help dogs with hip dysplasia, paralysis, and acute injuries in addition to arthritis.
Of course, not all dog wheelchairs are the same. Because dogs come in all shapes and sizes, it is important to find a wheelchair that is going to fit the dog comfortably. It is also critical to take a look at the wheels and think about whether foam wheels or are-filed tires will be better.
Foam wheels are more durable and cannot be punctured as easily; however, air-filled tires provide improved suspension and will allow a dog to run more easily. Finally, consider going with a fully-adjustable wheelchair that allows the user to adjust the height, length, and width to meet the needs of the dog perfectly. Dog wheelchairs are a great solution for pets with arthritis.
6. Keep Dogs Warm
When possible, try to keep dogs warm. Cold temperatures are going to aggravate joints that have been afflicted by arthritis. Cold temperatures cause the body’s tissues to constrict, placing that much more pressure on joints that are already irritated.
In order to keep dogs as warm as possible, use blankets, think about investing in a padded dog bed, and use warm compresses to ease irritated joints. When dogs with arthritis are kept warm, any discomfort will be kept to a minimum.
7. Talk To Vets About Medication Options
Finally, it is also a good idea to talk to a trained vet about medication options. The mantra when it comes to pain medication is to start low and go slow. Therefore, vets will often start with medications called NSAIDs.
These are similar to Tylenol and Motrin and can reduce inflammation in dogs with arthritis. Over time, the vet might need to step up the medication regimen to more powerful options; however, this is best discussed with a vet on a case by case basis.
Solutions Are Available for Dogs with Arthritis
These are only a few of the options that are available to help dogs that suffer from arthritis. It is heartbreaking to see a dog with arthritis living in pain. Addressing this chronic medical condition from multiple directions with the solutions above will allow pet owners and medical providers to manage arthritis in dogs appropriately.