Are you giving your dog the right arthritis treatments based upon the stage of arthritis he or she is currently in? Here are the best treatment options for decreasing pain and slowing the progression of arthritis at every stage.
I’ve been hunting with dogs all of my life, and so I knew right away when Trigger, my 6-year-old English Setter, started showing signs of arthritis. I wish there were a cure for arthritis, but as of now there is no cure for arthritis in dogs. Arthritis starts off very mild and then progresses into a more painful and debilitating disease. Luckily, you can slow down the progression of arthritis and give your dog more quality years by catching arthritis early and providing the right treatments.
Trigger wasn’t acting sick or injured when I first noticed something was up, the first stages of arthritis are far more subtle than that. I simply noticed Trigger was showing signs of slowing down after a long day of hunting. His movements weren't as fluid and his energy just wasn’t the same. He wanted to spend the day sleeping as opposed to following me everywhere and making trouble.
Some people might chalk it up to aging, but I’ve seen the early warning signs of arthritis in dogs before so I knew where we were headed. I also knew that the sooner I started treating Trigger’s mild arthritis, the more good years he’d have before he experiences debilitating pain.
No matter which stage of arthritis your dog falls under, it’s never too early or too late to start proactively treating the pain and progression of arthritis in dogs.
First Stage Arthritis In Dogs: Mild Arthritis
It doesn’t matter if your dog is young or old, they might be showing signs of mild arthritis without you even realizing it. No dog is immune to arthritis, but older, obese and large breed dogs are at the greatest risk, as well as dogs with genetic predispositions to canine arthritis.
Signs Of Mild Arthritis In Dogs:
- Your dog isn’t getting up as quickly or as often as usual
- Your dog’s movements are choppier, stiff and/or less fluid, especially the day after a hunt or following any other type of strenuous physical activity
- Your dog is not always as excitable when it comes to playtime, and/or is showing reluctance to exercise from time to time
- A decrease in activity levels ultimately leads to weight gain, which is another sign of arthritis
Dogs are the most happy-go-lucky creatures on this planet. They are capable of masking mild pain if that means they can run, jump, play and just have a good time. That’s why it can be rather difficult to detect arthritis in dogs in its earliest stages.
If your dog is prone to arthritis due to a pre-existing condition (ex: hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia), injury or lifestyle, there’s no harm in following these arthritis treatments for dogs, just as you would for pre-detected early stage arthritis.
Treatment For Mild Arthritis In Dogs
Weight Control: Maintain optimal weight and keep your dog’s muscles strong with plenty of exercise.
Dog Supplements For Arthritis: Feed your dog a well-balanced diet, including supplements like chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine for arthritis--both of are included in Alpha Dog Nutrition supplements specially formulated for hunting dogs.
Warm & Cozy Dog Bed: Give your dog a warm and well-cushioned bed to sleep on during the day and night.
Prevent Exposure To The Cold: Keep your dog out of the cold as much as possible. Enlist help from heaters, fireplaces and doggy jackets to help keep your pup warm.
Dog Massages: Give your dog massages, or hire a pet masseuse to massage your dog. Massages promote blood flow and circulation. It’s easier than you might assume to find a certified canine massage therapist, many of which are happy to teach you the techniques so you only have to pay for their services one or two times. Furthermore, holding warm compresses over sore joints can help relieve tension and pain.
Take Your Dog Swimming: Non-weight bearing activities like swimming are excellent for dogs with arthritis.
Second Stage Arthritis In Dogs: Moderate Arthritis
Mild arthritis eventually turns into moderate arthritis, by treating the earliest stages you can push back how long this progression takes to unfold. This stage is generally when dogs starts to display more noticeable signs of pain, such as limping or irritability. Many dog owners don’t even notice their dog has arthritis until this stage.
Signs Of Moderate Arthritis In Dogs:
- Your dog is limping or showing any other signs of lameness, most prevalent after a nap or in the morning
- Your dog is showing signs of joint sensitivity. You may even feel heat near certain joints
- Your dog displays uncharacteristic mood swings or periods of irritability
- You notice your dog’s pain and stiffness increasing when the weather is cold
Treatment For Moderate Arthritis In Dogs
All of the arthritis treatments for dogs outlined for mild arthritis continue to be effective for moderate arthritis in dogs too. In fact, it’s even more important at this stage to feed the right nutritional supplements for dog arthritis, monitor weight, promote exercise, keep your dog out of the cold and provide massages.
After mild arthritis progresses into moderate arthritis there are additional measures you can use to stall worsening of arthritis while providing arthritis pain relief for dogs, such as:
Laser treatments: Class IV therapeutic lasers stimulate blood flow to tissues, which can prove quite effective for some dogs in regards to reducing pain and promoting healthy cartilage regeneration.
Dog Acupuncture: Acupuncture can help your dog experience pain relief from arthritis. In order to manage pain and remain effective, sessions must be consistently repeated. For maximum pain relief, electroacupuncture may be necessary. This form of treatment involves using needles to stimulate and enhance the analgesic effects of acupuncture by blocking pain pathways.
NSAIDS: If your dog’s arthritis pain is interfering with day-to-day life, talk to your vet about anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) like aspirin, Rimadyl and ibuprofen. NSAIDs do not decrease or slow down arthritis damage but they can help soothe painful joints, which is the next best thing. There are risks to using NSAIDs over a long period of time, such as ulcers, bleeding disorders, liver and kidney dysfunction. That’s why it’s best to hold off on regular NSAID usage until pain progresses to a certain point.
Pharmaceuticals: There are several medications for arthritis in dogs. Talking to your vet is the best way to identify the right medication for your dog. Adequan injections are one option to treat arthritis. Each injection helps supply your dog’s body with what it needs to produce new cartilage and repair worn down tissues. The first round of treatment includes 6 injections over the course of three weeks. As you can imagine, this can get pretty pricey. Maintenance injections are given every 3 to 6 weeks.
Analgesic synthetic opioids, like Tramadol, are commonly prescribed to dogs with painful arthritis. While medications for arthritis in dogs like Tramadol are not anti-inflammatories, they are a great pain pill due to relative safety and affordability.
Third Stage Arthritis In Dogs: Severe Arthritis
Moderate arthritis in dogs eventually turns into severe arthritis, the most painful and debilitating stage.
Signs Of Serious Arthritis In Dogs:
- You can see visible joint deformities
- Your dog is displaying stiffness, the “bunny-hopping” gait, or all out lameness
- Your dog no longer wants to participate in the same physical activities
- Prolonged periods of rest and sleeping
- Your dog no longer has the same appetite he/she once did
- Your dog shows signs of aggression when you go to touch impacted joints
- Your dog is walking with an abnormal stance, such as tucking their rear-end under or using their back legs with extreme caution
- Your dog is reluctant or unwilling to get up or move, even when prompted with things they love
- Your dog’s joints are swollen and feel hot to the touch.
Treatment For Severe Arthritis In Dogs
When your dog’s arthritis gets to this point, it’s time to bring out the big guns. At this point there isn’t much you can do to slow down deterioration as it’s already pretty far progressed. Now it’s all about preventing pain. All of the arthritis treatments for dogs listed above for mild and moderate arthritis still provide ample benefits to dogs with severe arthritis.
Additional treatment options for dogs with severe arthritis include:
Steroids: Corticosteroids like Prednisone and Dexamethasone effectively reduce inflammation of joints. Long-term use of steroids for arthritis contributes to further breaking down of tissues and worsening of arthritis. That’s why steroids are generally only recommended for the most severe cases in which the benefits outweigh the risks.
Aids For Dogs With Arthritis: Carts, wheelchairs or some type of walking aid for dogs with arthritis can provide a great deal of good. Most importantly, they help your dog maintain more mobility, which leads to a happier dog, better quality of life and less stiffness/pain.
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