Dogs Arthritis and your dog a common problem

Published on September 21st, 2017 | by Debbie Martin


Arthritis and your dog a common problem

Arthritis a common problem among older dogs, just as it is in people. Years of movement causes joints to ‘wear out’, causing further movement to become increasingly uncomfortable. The joints of the knees, elbows, shoulders and backbone are particularly susceptible. During the coming winter months, arthritis will pose a greater threat, since cold weather exacerbates it.

When a human is suffering from joint pain, this can be easily communicated through speech. Unfortunately, this option is not available to dogs. Owners of older dogs (most vets consider dogs more than seven years old as such) should look out for signs which might indicate that their pet is suffering from arthritis. There are several such signs.

What should I look out for?

Lack of mobility

The most noticeable symptom of arthritis is a lack of mobility. This is most overtly manifested in a limp; some dogs may even thrust a limb toward their owner as if to demonstrate that something is amiss. This is hardly ever the first indication of arthritis, however. In most instances, affected dogs will exhibit other, subtler signs. Generally speaking, the earlier these other signs are noticed, the better – as corrective action can be taken before the problem worsens.

Dogs suffering from arthritis will find it difficult to get up and will be disinclined to perform activities which involve lifting their body; walking up a flight of stairs, for example, may prove especially arduous. They will prefer to sit on the floor to avoid having to climb or jump up onto a chair.

Arthritic dogs will also easily tire. When taking your dog out for exercise, look out for signs that their fitness is waning. If your dog drags on the lead while being walked, then this is usually seen as a good sign something may be wrong.

Aversion to physical contact

Affected dogs will also be averse to physical contact, as they will find it uncomfortable. They will be far less tolerant of children and will be generally less affectionate. Sometimes they will just hide somewhere dark and enclosed to be on their own; away from anyone else. If your dog was once very friendly but now is very anxious and prefers to be alone, then this may be a sign that they are suffering from arthritis.


Dogs affected by arthritis might exhibit some weird grooming behaviour. They may habitually lick areas which have no fur and gnaw at their joints.

Food trouble

Arthritic dogs will become very choosy about what they eat. Sometimes they will not want to eat anything at all. This loss of appetite could indicate a number of problems, however and arthritis is only one of them. Arthritis is considered the probable cause only if the loss of appetite should appear in conjunction with symptoms already described. Whatever the case, if your dog is not eating properly, it is probably time to take them to the vet for a check-up.

Breed of dog

Some breeds of dogs are more vulnerable to arthritis than others. This is mostly because of variations in size and weight. Larger dogs, such as Mastiffs and Great Danes, will be more prone to suffering from arthritis, as, over the course of a lifetime, their joints are put under a great deal more stress.

What can be done?

When you first encounter the symptoms of arthritis in your dog, you should quickly seek the opinion of a veterinarian, so that a thorough diagnosis may be obtained. The vet may then prescribe one of a few treatments. While there is no cure for arthritis (in humans or in dogs), there are a number of treatments which will alleviate the symptoms. Through these treatments, a dog’s suffering can be managed.

Benefits of anti-inflammatory medication

There are number of medications available, the most popular of which is an anti-inflammatory called Metacam, which helps to reduce inflammation around the joints and thus reduce the pain for the dog. Metacam needs be administered only once a day and will provide 24 hours-worth of relief; it can also be used to treat a variety of ailments and injuries in addition to arthritis. Metacam comes in the form of a liquid, which can be administered into a dog’s food, directly into its mouth, or subcutaneously by a qualified vet. It has a sweet taste which dogs find palatable and has been safely used by many dogs for a number of years.

Metacam, along with other anti-inflammatories, are designed to be administered on a long-term basis. In the vast majority of cases, affected dogs will need to be medicated for the rest of their lives.  Should such dogs have their medication withdrawn from them, they will most likely lapse back into the symptoms previously experienced, luckily the price of this medication is very low.

Other measures

In addition to medications there are other ways that you can help your pet; huge benefits can be reaped through simple changes in a dog’s diet and exercise regime. Most vets will therefore recommend that you get your dog moving again as soon as the pain subsides. First, however, the dog must be persuaded to eat and to move and this can only be done once the pain has subsided enough.

Other, smaller measures can also be taken to minimise the pain of an arthritic dog. You might consider buying a special foam mattress for the dog to sleep comfortably on. You might also consider raising your dog’s bowl, so that they are able to eat and drink without lowering their neck into an uncomfortable position. Similarly, arthritic dogs cannot properly groom themselves and may need aid in cleaning hard-to-reach spots of fur. If you want to take your dog out in the car, then portable ramps are also available which can aid a dog getting in and out.

Many dog-owners will feel disheartened when they learn that their dog is suffering from arthritis.  This concern is often unfounded, however, as the severity of the condition is frequently exaggerated. The source of confusion is that the term ‘arthritis’ encompasses a variety of conditions, of varying degrees of severity. In most cases, dogs with arthritis once properly medicated, can still enjoy many more years of a healthy, active life.

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About the Author

Debbie has worked for Beeston Animal Health for a number of years and although generally involved with the marketing these days she has a great deal of knowledge on many things to do with small animals.

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