You’ve probably heard that dogs aren’t supposed to have arthritis. The truth is, they can get it just like humans. When they’re young, they’re resilient and able to handle the stress of being taken care of. As they age and their joints start to wear down, arthritis sets in. This is a progressive condition that affects the joints and cartilage of your dog’s body. The good news is that there are ways to help manage their arthritis and relieve some of the pain.
If your dog has arthritis, you’re not alone. The condition affects more than 17 million dogs in the United States alone, and it’s more common than you might think. In this article, we’ll take a look at what arthritis is and how it’s diagnosed. We’ll also discuss how to recognize the signs, what breeds are most at risk, and what you can do to manage your dog’s arthritis.
What Is Arthritis in Dogs?
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
There are a few different kinds of arthritis, each with different symptoms. Here are some of the most common ones:
Most dogs will have arthritis in their hind legs, but it can occur in any joint. Swollen joints — especially the knees, hips, and elbows — can be a clear indicator that your dog has arthritis. The joints become stiffer over time, making it harder for your dog to move around and get around on their own. These symptoms are almost always accompanied by a loss of appetite and a reluctance to move around, making them even more difficult to care for.
Weight loss is also a common symptom of arthritis in dogs. This can be due to muscle wasting, decreased metabolism, or a combination of the two. The weight loss can come on suddenly or be more gradual. It’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of weight loss, so that you can intervene before it gets out of hand.
Pain and Discomfort
The pain and discomfort associated with arthritis is extremely variable, depending on your dog and their arthritis. What one dog may experience as a constant, throbbing pain may be nothing more than a nagging ache for another. The primary difference is the dog’s reaction to it.
Some dogs may display behaviors that are directly related to the pain, like hiding from the world or snapping at people who come into their space. Others may have a harder time hiding their discomfort, so you may see them pacing around more or trying to escape their crate.
How to Recognize the Signs of Arthritis in Dogs
There are some things you can do to help your dog recognize when their joints are hurting and need medical attention. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for:
Soreness in the Hind Legs
The hallmark sign of arthritis in dogs is swollen joints, especially the hind legs. Depending on the size of your dog, you may notice lumps or bumps in the joints. Swollen joints are one of the most common symptoms of arthritis, and it’s important to be able to recognize it so that you can take the right steps to help your dog.
Swollen joints aren’t the only thing you need to look out for. Limping is another indicator that your dog may have arthritis. It’s possible that your dog may be limping even if their joints aren’t swollen. This is often due to a combination of swelling and an underlying injury.
What Causes Arthritis in Dogs?
The cause of arthritis in dogs is still unclear. There are many theories linking the condition to genetics, a viral infection, or even a hormonal imbalance. The truth is that no one knows for sure. The good news is that there are ways to help manage the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis in dogs.
The Different Types of Arthritis in Dogs
There are several types of arthritis that affect dogs. Each one has different causes and can manifest in different ways. Here’s a breakdown of the most common types:
Osteoarthritis: This is the most common type of arthritis in dogs. Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage that cushions the joints wears out. As the cartilage breaks down, the cartilage loses its shock-absorbing properties and your dog will start to grind their teeth, walk stiffly, and have pain in their joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis: This type of arthritis is autoimmune in nature. It happens when the dog’s immune system attacks their own cartilage and bone. As the bone and cartilage break down, it leads to bone spurs, which can cause even more pain if they become infected.
Quadruple joint dysplasia: This is a genetic condition that affects the hips, knees, and elbows. It is characterized by osteoarthritis in the joints, but it can also be accompanied by arthritis in other joints.
Gout: Gout is a type of arthritis that happens when uric acid crystals build up in the joints. The crystals block the flow of the synovial fluid, which causes extreme pain.
The Bottom Line
You can help manage the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis in dogs. It’s important to recognize the symptoms and take your dog to the vet if you notice any sudden changes in their mobility.
There are several treatment options available, including rest, CBD, and injectable medications. If your dog is experiencing severe pain or discomfort, they may even benefit from joint surgery. Weigh your options carefully and talk with your vet to determine which treatment is right for your dog.