Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Health Guide for Pet Owners

Aging isn’t easy. This is just as true for people as it is for dogs. It’s normal for your dog to slow down a bit in their twilight years. Animals, just like people, are susceptible to certain medical conditions as they get older. However, animals can’t speak up about the increased pain they’re feeling. It’s up to you as a responsible owner to look out for the signs that something may be wrong with your animal.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is one such serious condition that many dogs develop as they age. According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis is characterized by the swelling and tenderness in the joints, which cause pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis, specifically, causes the cartilage to break down as the body’s immune system attacks the joints.

Osteoarthritis is also referred to as degenerative joint disease because, as we learned from VCA Hospitals, osteoarthritis happens over a long time after wear and tear of the joints. It’s an age-related disease, and not something you’d seen in puppies. If you have a puppy who’s showing signs or symptoms of limping, joint stiffness or slow movements, check with your veterinarian.

In dogs with active lifestyles, this can be particularly debilitating. Because osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, in this guide we’ll be going through some early signs to watch for, and how you can prevent it and ease their pain.

Osteoarthritis Symptoms in Dogs

According to Dr. Sarah Ochoa, a veterinarian and BarxBuddy collaborator, osteoarthritis in dogs is similar to that in people and shares many of the signs that you would see in a person:

  • Limping
  • Reduced mobility
  • Stiffness
  • Slow to get up and lay down

Additionally, you should look out for your dog panting from the pain of moving around or symptoms flaring up after a sudden change in weather. If you notice your dog not wanting to play as much or having trouble maintaining posture while urinating/defecating, it’s also a sign they’re struggling with arthritis.

If you see any of these symptoms, Dr. Ochoa recommends consulting your veterinarian immediately.

Treating Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis can be prevented and treated if caught early. Here are some medications a veterinarian may prescribe you to treat your dog’s arthritis:

  • Carprofen (Rimadyl)
  • Tramadol
  • Gabapentin
  • Prevacox
  • Dermaxx

Note that none of these medications are available over the counter. Pain meds that work on humans do not work with dogs. They can cause internal bleeding, GI ulcerations and other complications. Do not medicate your dog without a veterinarian’s expertise.

Arthritis can be prevented with the use of joint supplements that decrease inflammation. Dr. Ochoa recommends starting your dog on supplements as they age, as well as decreasing the amount of strenuous activities they do on a daily basis.

There are many types of supplements available, but most of these will contain the following:

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin: A safe option that reduces joint inflammation in dogs
  • CBD: Helps moderate parts of the body related to the immune and central nervous systems to decrease arthritis-caused inflammation.
  • Omega fatty acids: Helps with joint pain as well as your dog’s skin and coat. BarxBuddy offers an omega supplement for both dogs and cats that can be blended in with their water or sprinkled over food. We also offer our omega supplement bundled with a multivitamin powder in our Evolved Paws package.

Preventing osteoarthritis from developing is key, so reduce your dog’s  physical activity as they age. It’s ok if they won’t be able to keep up as much as they used to when they were younger.

Is Osteoarthritis in Dogs Curable?

Generally, no, osteoarthritis is not curable.

Dr. Ochoa notes that in some of the more severe cases, there are surgeries that can be performed to replace our dogs’ joints. People will have hip replacements when they get older, where their hip joint is replaced with an artificial joint. However, this is a very expensive procedure, and you may not easily find a specialist to perform this on an animal.

The best policy for osteoarthritis is trying to prevent it before it worsens. Most of the time, once arthritis is developed, the damage is already done. Supplements and other medications can treat the symptoms to lessen the pain, but arthritis is an unfortunate part of getting older for both dogs and people.

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