Help your dog cope with arthritis

Arthritis is a debilitating disease that causes stiffness and pain in the joints.The most common type in dogs is osteoarthritis, and it usually affects middle-aged to older pets.
Breeds prone to Arthritis
Medium to large breeds — Labradors, Retrievers, Rottweilers and German Shepherds — are usually susceptible, because of their weight. Very active dogs can simply wear out a joint by the time they reach middle age, while younger animals can injure a joint and develop arthritis if they aren’t treated in time.

Symptoms
Arthritis makes your dog unable to jump on to his favourite couch. Some pets hide their arthritis pain, but you’ll notice they don’t want to play because it’s difficult to run and wrestle. They can’t leap on or off the bed or climb into a car without help. So, you have to keep a keen watch in order to determine whether your pet is suffering. A few symptoms to watch out for...

Limping:You may see your pet limping or preferring to use one or two of his legs, depending on which legs and joints are arthritic. In some cases, the limp may seem worse when your pet wakes up in the morning. It becomes less noticeable as your pet ‘warms up’ by moving around.

Difficulty in moving:Your pet may also become reluctant to do things that were previously easy for him to accomplish – get into and out of the car, going up and down the stairs. Arthritic cats, on the other hand, may stop jumping onto countertops and perches.

Spinal issues:Arthritic changes can occur not only in the legs but also in various parts of the spine. These changes may result in a sore neck, an abnormal posture with a ‘hunch’ in the back, or lameness of one or both hind legs.

Tiredness:Your pet may tire more easily. For dogs, this may mean that walks become shorter. Your pet may spend more time sleeping, resting.

Irritability: Arthritic animals may become irritable. They may snap and/or bite when approached or handled, particularly if the petting or handling takes place in a manner that increases their pain.

Muscle atrophy:Arthritic pets often develop muscle atrophy. A pet with atrophied muscles has a leg that looks thinner than a normal leg.

Licking, chewing, biting:
Pets affected with arthritis may also begin to lick at, chew or bite at body areas that are painful. This may even reach the point of causing inflamed skin and hair loss over affected areas.

Coping with Arthritis
As a responsible pet parent, you can help your pooch to deal with this painful condition with the following practices:

Slimming down:If your dog is overweight, help him slim down. Extra weight places extra strain on joints, worsening the pain. Feeling guilty because your dog is looking longingly at his food bowl? Mix a little pumpkin (unsweetened, not canned) into his dinner; it’s healthy, low cal, and will help him feel full.

Gentle exercise:
Your dog still needs regular exercise; it is a must to keep him moving or s/he will stiffen up. Just make sure it’s controlled, gentle, low impact, and short in duration.

Ramps and pet steps:Help your arthritic dog get up steps, on to a bed, or in and out of cars with a ramp or pet steps.
Improved traction: Arthritic dogs are less steady on their feet. Offer them stability with secure rugs for traction.

Canine massage: Massage eases sore muscles, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress for both the giver and receiver. Plus, it’s great for bonding and a wonderful way to examine your older dog – you can check for new lumps, bumps or sore points.

Acupuncture: Veterinary acupuncture stimulates the release of the body’s own pain relieving and anti-inflammatory substances.

Sweet heat: Heating pads relieve aches. They help in pain relief, muscle relaxation, stimulating acupuncture points, releasing trigger points, and healing injuries.

A supportive bed: A firm orthopedic foam bed that distributes the dog’s weight evenly reduces pressure on the joints and can help an arthritic dog to curl up with his favourite toy.

Prevention
Keeping your dog fit with exercise and proper nutrition may, in some cases, help prevent the disease, or possibly slow its progression.

If your dog is a large breed, it’s necessary to monitor the type and amount of food given when his bones are still growing. However, arthritic conditions cannot always be predicted or prevented, especially those that are inherited. But with your love and care, you can always make life easier and comfortable for your pooch.

- Dr Ashwani Kumar Singh and Dr Kumar Mangalam Yadav

www.dogsandpupsmagazine.com; www.facebook.com/Dogsandpupsmag

Are you a proud pet parent? Have a cute cat story to share? Maybe your guinea pig is giving you trouble? Whatever is your creature companion, we are here to listen to you. Send your photos, queries and stories to [email protected]

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