Top Tips To Beat Arthritis
As an animal physiotherapist, arthritis in dogs is one of the most common problems I see. Arthritis doesnt discriminate. Dogs of all shapes, sizes, breeds and age groups can be affected. For many it is as a result of an injury or surgery to a joint. For others it can be through prolonged wear and tear. In this 2 part blog post I will discuss some tips you can put into action straight away to maximise your dogs quality of life and longevity when they have arthritis, and how physiotherapy can help them feel and move better.
What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis
First things first, Some definitions. What is canine arthritis? As with humans, arthritis is a condition which affects the animal’s joints. Each of the animal’s leg joints are lined with a special substance called synovial fluid. In most types of canine arthritis, the synovial fluid, which normally provides a layer of lubrication between surfaces, thins out and breaks down causing friction between the bones. In turn, the joints in question become inflamed due to a variety of reasons causing the animal stiffness, pain, and general discomfort.
Just like humans, there are multiple types of canine arthritis. Those types include:
- Healthy lifestyle, including eating habits, stimulation, and exercise
- Targeted physical therapy programs
- Surgery Prescription medication
Bear in mind that each and every dog is different. What works for one canine might not work for every pooch. It is highly dependent on their breed, overall health, and lifestyle. The best strategy is to consult with your dog’s veterinarian, or other pet specialist, to come up with a targeted treatment strategy that includes a mix of natural, holistic interventions, therapy, positive lifestyle changes, and medications. Surgery should always be the last option, especially for pets who’ve reached the geriatric stage. As the dog’s age increases, their candidacy for surgery decreases.
Install Area Rugs Or Mat Flooring
I used to be really proud of my homes gleaming hardwood floors, well, I guess I still am but they are currently covered in area rugs because they are not good for treating dogs with arthritis at home.
Its really hard for bigger dogs to get up from a hardwood floor and all that strain makes the progression of arthritis more rapid. On top of that, an arthritic dog simply doesnt have the core muscles necessary to confidently walk across slippery hardwood.
If you have wall to wall carpeting, that is great! If not, a bunch of sturdy area rugs will work. Just make sure they have grip backs or place them on top of something like this: rug gripping material or use carpet tape so your arthritic does doesnt have a wipe-out.
The other solution is those roll out mats with rubber backing. They are excellent, dont move and will stop your arthritic dog from sliding.
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Added Salts Sugars And Artificial Additives
As a general rule, the more processed a food is, the more likely it is to contribute to inflammation. By definition, all manufactured dog foods are going to be processed to an extent, so its important to choose one that contains no added salts, sugars, or artificial additives, which are basically an unnecessary recipe for increased inflammation
When choosing a food for your arthritic dog, be sure to read the label carefully and avoid these 5 foods as much as possible to ensure what theyre eating act as medicine in their body, not a toxin.
Why Is My Dog Losing Weight
If your dog is losing weight and doesnt seem to be eating, its important to take them to the vet. There could be several reasons for their weight loss, including cancer, thyroid problems, kidney or liver issues, infection, or parasites.
Any of these conditions can cause a decrease in appetite and weight loss. If your dog is showing these symptoms, its important to take them to the vet so that they can rule out any medical conditions.
Once again, if your dog is refusing food, dont automatically assume the worst. There could be a number of reasons why theyre not eating. However, if youre concerned about your dogs health, its always best to consult with your vet.
They may be able to provide you with some tips on how to get your dog eating again, or they may need to run some tests to rule out any medical conditions. Either way, its always better to be safe than sorry!
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Canned Food Vs Kibble
Youre now armed with the info you need to make an informed choice about the ingredients in your dogs food. The next question may then be, canned food or kibble? In short, the canned food vs. kibble debate is not one that has a cut-and-dried answer. Canned and kibble dog food both have their good and bad points. Which food you decide to feed is really a personal decision based on many factors including what your vet advises. Whats important when choosing food for your arthritic dog is to avoid the ingredients we mentioned above, and to ensure youre getting a quality product.
With that said, here are some of the pros and cons of both canned and kibble dog food to help make the decision clearer.
Help Your Dog Get A Grip And Feel Supported
When getting up and walking is already difficult and/or painful for your dog, asking them to do either on a slick floor surface just compounds the difficulty and pain. Worry not though, you needn’t replace all of your home flooring. Fortunately, there are some inexpensive, simple, and highly effective products you can try and steps you can take to quickly make your home floor surfaces less slippery. As well as some great ways to help them get around better when out and about.
- Lay out area rugs or carpet runners, at least in the areas where your dog walks most. And don’t forget anti-skid mats. You could also do carpet tiles instead of full rugs or runners.An advantage of carpet tiles is that they can easily be removed to be cleaned or replaced when they get soiled or worn out. If you’re not going to do the carpet tiles from wall to wall, you may need some “corner stickies” to help hold them in place.
- Add non-slip stair treads to your hardwood staircases the inset photo shows a popular option our team has used with great success. They’re a bit spendy, but they work! They’re easy to install, with no tape or adhesive needed. They’re easy to vacuum and when you do lift them up, they don’t leave a residue or marks behind.
Here’s Preventive Vet dog, Daisy, when she was 15 years old, using her ramp to go to bed at night.
For more options for supplements and treatments for arthritis, check out our article.
MABEL THE SENIOR PUG’S EXPERIENCE WITH ENCORE MOBILITY SUPPLEMENT
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Joint Supplements For Canine Arthritis
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acids whose anti-inflammatory effect has been scientifically proven. The fatty acids are found in oily fish like salmon, sardines, and anchovies but they are also available as supplements. Dogs fed omega supplements may need lower NSAID doses to experience pain relief.
Glucosamine. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound in joint cartilage. The body produces glucosamine but may sometimes fail to produce enough due to factors like age, genetics, or illness. By supplementing with glucosamine, you increase the concentration of the compound at the joint and improve cartilage mass and quality.
Chondroitin Sulfate. Chondroitin, similar to glucosamine, is produced by the body but may sometimes be in inadequate amounts. Its main role is to promote water retention and elasticity at the joints.
Both glucosamine and chondroitin are usually extracted from sea animals like oysters and green-lipped mussels. Green-lipped mussels are a type of shellfish native to New Zealand. The mussels are very rich in both glucosamine and chondroitin and also contain a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Hyaluronic Acid. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring fluid in the body that is very hydrophilic . Due to its water-loving nature, it attracts water to the joint space, promoting lubrication and fluidity of the joint. The acid also has an anti-inflammatory effect which is helpful in slowing the progression of arthritis.
What Does Dog Arthritis Look Like
Dogs are usually extremely active and curious in nature. No matter what breed of dog you have, puppies stand to show a lot of energy and get excited easily. However, for the first few months after their birth, it sometimes gets really frustrating trying to find healthy ways for them to dispense that energy. Puppy energy can last in dogs even after their puppyhood, with a burst of energy coming now and then even in older dogs. However, arthritis may considerably curtail this energy.
Arthritis is undoubtedly a painful condition that can make your dog feel physically unfit and psychologically exhausted. As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to keep a close eye on your dog because it is with the help of keen observation that you can determine whether something is wrong with your dog. Many behavioral observations can be made in a dog that is suffering from arthritis in comparison to a healthy dog. For example, you will see that they are generally less active and are showing stiffness and difficulty when it comes to moving around. Therefore, it is vital to be observant of the signs of arthritis in dogs so that they can be provided immediate care and attention.
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Canned Dog Food The Pros
Canned dog foods typically have much less grainand carbs in them than kibble foods , even if you arent buying grain-free canned food. This is because kibbles require a large number of carbs as much as 50% so they can go through the machinery and be extruded into kibble form. Since this process isnt necessary for canned food, these typically have more meat protein which is good for your dog .
Canned dog food also typically has fewer chemical additives than kibble, as well as less artificial flavoring and coloring which can all contribute to harmful inflammation. Canned foods dont need the kind of preservatives that kibble does because they are preserved through the canning process.
Also, canned food contains more water than kibble, often being around 75% liquid, which helps your dog stay hydrated. Proper hydration is key for keeping joints adequately lubricated, allowing them to move and flex as needed. Dehydration can lead to stiff tendons and ligaments, which can cause heightened pain in arthritic dogs and increase the risk of injury.
What Are The Causes Of Dog Arthritis
Several factors can contribute to your dogs damaged joints and cartilage. These include:
- Age: Older dogs tend to develop arthritis as their joints begin to weaken and wear out.
- Injuries: Frequent injuries, such as fractures or ruptured ligaments, can increase a dogs chance of damaging its joints and cartilage.
- Size & Weight: Large, heavy dogs are more prone to arthritis. The added weight puts more pressure and stress on the joints which speed up their deterioration.
- Genetics: Some breeds of dogs are more likely to develop arthritis because of body structure and development.
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Bring On The Exercise In Moderation
If you have watched your arthritic dog get up after lying down for awhile, or if you are afflicted with arthritis yourself, you know that creatures with arthritis may have a stiff gait. The longer they stay in one position, the harder it is for them to get up and go.
Exercise is important for all dogs regardless of their weight. It is also great for dog parents. Getting some fresh air and a chance to stretch your legs together can be a great way to increase your bond with your dog. Additionally, it can be a fun way to help your dog with arthritis at home.
Short and slow walks around the neighborhood can keep your dog limber and help an overweight dog burn more calories. In addition, these walks help maintain muscle mass to stabilize the joints. Swimming also makes a great low-impact exercise for arthritic dogs and can be an enjoyable treat in the summer heat.
Dogs dont always know their limits, so beware of letting your dog sprint or do other high-impact exercises. Also avoid the weekend warrior model of exercise. It may be seem fun in the short term, but your dog could get injured or suffer increased joint pain.
When To Call Your Vet
Arthritis is best treated with the help of a holistic veterinarian. Conventional vets may recommend certain dog medications to reduce pain, including:
- Muscle relaxants
- Medications to reduce nerve pain
- Opioid medications
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
However, these medications are only good for short-term relief. Long-term use can lead to addiction and tolerance buildup, increasing the risk of an overdose and other side effects, such as bloating, vomiting, headaches, loss of appetite, and lethargy.
Holistic veterinarians will recommend natural remedies for dogs with arthritis combined with lifestyle and diet modifications. They may also point you to an acupuncture specialist or a physiotherapist to provide extra mobility treatment and reduce muscle tension.
Never give any human pain medication to an arthritic dog unless youve been told so by your veterinarian and guided about dosage. These are human medications for a good reason their serving size is adjusted to average human weight, making them inappropriate for our canine friends.
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How Can My Dog Develop Arthritis
There are many reasons that a dog can get arthritis, including external factors like the quality of their diet, how much exercise theyre getting, breed, injury, and their age.
- Joint injuries. If a joint gets injured by a torn ligament or an infected wound, for example, then damage can occur inside the joint. This sets off a vicious circle of inflammation which can result in arthritis in an otherwise healthy joint.
- Being overweight. If your dog has been overweight, their joints have to cope with the extra load, which, over time, can cause increased wear and tear on the joints.
- Old age. As arthritis may be caused by wear and tear, older dogs may get arthritis even if they have always been slim, fit and healthy. Whilst this may be seen as a normal part of ageing, it doesnt mean that we shouldnt treat it to prevent it from getting worse over time.
What Are The Treatment Options For Arthritis In Dogs
Because arthritis is worsened by obesity and lack of exercise, it is important that you keep your dogs weight under control and their activity levels at a normal level. Non-medical treatment options in addition to drug therapy can be prescribed to treat arthritis in dogs. Pain medication will likely be prescribed to your dog to assist in the pain and discomfort felt due to the degeneration of the joints. In addition, anti-inflammatory pills will likely be prescribed, in addition to joint therapy treatments for a set period of time.
Non-medical treatment options for treating arthritis in dogs include:
- Weight management to decrease further stress added to your dogs joints
- Dietary changes eating dog food with high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid , an omega-3 fatty acid that has shown to have success in decreasing joint inflammation
- Exercise to help loosen stiff joints
- Physical rehabilitation includes cold and heat therapy, canine massage, stretching, and range-of-motion exercises
- Acupuncture to relieve pain in joints
These non-medical treatments may also be prescribed with drug treatments to further increase your dogs comfort levels. There are three main families of drugs prescribed to treat arthritis in dogs: cartilage protectors, NSAIDS , and feed supplements.
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My Dogs Veterinarian Said That My Dog Is Overweight She Prescribed New Food As Well As Some Medications And Nutraceuticals Why Are There So Many Things For Me To Give My Dog
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for treating OA. In fact, once OA is established, we are not so much treating it as managing it because OA is not a disease that can be cured.
OA is a very complex disease process, so managing it is a fairly complex process because we get the best results from combining multiple modalities. Typical multimodal management of arthritis generally includes the following:
Normalizing body condition is critical, so your veterinarian will prescribe a specific nutritional product to accomplish this goal. There is now a nutrient profile that can support the joints while helping to normalize body weight and condition. It is important to stick strictly to the prescribed nutritional program.
Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs are generally used as the first line of defense against the pain of OA. Your veterinarian will determine if your dog is a good candidate for this class of medication.
Occasionally, a corticosteroid anti-inflammatory drug will be prescribed instead of a NSAID. The two classes of medication CANNOT be used together.
“Never reach into your own medicine cabinet when your dog limps or has been diagnosed with OA.”
Gabapentin is a pain medication that addresses chronic pain differently from NSAIDs or corticosteroids, and complements those medications. It provides a way to address the chronic nature of OA pain, and is especially helpful when the patient is older and not able to take a NSAID.
Canned Dog Food The Cons
One of the main cons of canned dog food is that it often uses thickening agents to make the food hold its shape. One of these thickeners is carrageenan, which has been associated with inflammatory bowel disease , acid reflux, and intestinal ulceration. Also, most dog food cans are lined with Bisphenol-A , which has been associated with some health problems in people.
And theres the cost as well. Canned food is almost always more expensive than kibble of the same quality, and cost can add up quickly especially if you have a large dog or multiple dogs.
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