Dog Arthritis Symptoms and Home Pain Remedies
What Are the Signs of Arthritis in a Dog?
Arthritis symptoms can be seen in any age dog but are most common in geriatrics. The most common presentation is seen with older, large breed dogs, but even little dogs can develop arthritis when they have certain problems, like knee caps that slip out of place. If you notice any of these arthritis symptoms treatment can be started early and your dog has a lot better chance of recovering.
General arthritis symptoms to look for:
- Reluctance to play: This is one of the first things you might notice. A dog that would normally chase the ball for hours may not even bother to go after it even once. Don’t assume that just because your dog is getting older he will not want to play anymore. If it is winter you will notice this problem even more.
- Decreased activity and weight gain: If your dog is slowing down when climbing the stairs, having difficulty rising in the morning, and even reluctant to go on walks, he will most likely gain weight. Obese dogs have a more difficult time rising, more difficulty rising, and will be reluctant to go on walks. It is up to you to prevent a simple problem from destroying your dog´s life. Dogs still need exercise when they become obese and arthritic but they should be shorter walks, and he should go out a few times a day.
- General loss of tone: Along with the reduced activity, you might notice your dog's body becoming softer and less muscular. This will follow the other symptoms and should not be missed.
- Grumpy attitude: Your old dog may even bite. Biting is not a reason to condemn your dog; he may just be telling you “leave me alone; I am in pain”.
- Symptoms of pain in the affected joint: Most dogs will not show clear evidence of pain until the situation is advanced. These final arthritis symptoms will be obvious. If you bother to notice he will even tell you where it hurts.
Do Certain Parts of the Body Have Different Symptoms?
Yes, and if you are worried about your dog you need to learn where he is suffering!
- Hip: Arthritis in this joint is most commonly seen with big dogs who have inherited hip dysplasia. The most common symptom when your dog is feeling pain in this joint is licking. If he could massage his sore hips he probably would but, since he can´t, licking is the next best thing.
- Elbow and shoulder: These usually have only subtle differences. If one elbow is worse than the other your dog might try to walk on three legs.
- Back joints: Your dog may be nervous and try to move away when you try to pet his back.
- Feet and legs: The dog will lick on the sore joints, sometimes until the hair is gone and an open wound is present.
- Neck: Your dog may try to sit down to drink and eat. He may show fear when you try to touch him and of course, will not want to roughhouse.
As soon as you notice any of these changes take him to your regular veterinarian for an examination. After he palpates the joints and detects arthritic changes he may want to do X-rays to monitor the severity.
Some changes can be made at home. Think about how living conditions need to change for geriatric humans and then think about your dog. He may need ramps, a raised food and water bowl, and an orthopedic bed.
What Are the Conventional Treatments for Arthritis?
- Steroids: Although these drugs can help at times, there are numerous side effects (like damage to the cartilage and weight gain).
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Many of the large pharmaceutical companies are working in this area but most of the drugs released, so far, have serious side effects: stomach ulcers, kidney damage, and liver damage. These drugs will never cure arthritis but are formulated to make your dog feel better.
What Are the Alternative Treatment Options for Arthritis?
- Fish oil supplements: An omega 3 supplement is vital in treating arthritis because it reduces inflammation. Many veterinarians now consider this a conventional treatment so your dog may start this supplement early in the course of his disease. It is also an antioxidant so will reduce some of the damage done to your dog´s body.
- Other antioxidants: Vitamin C may be used since it protects the collagen. If acerola, a natural source, is too expensive, look for alternatives. Adequate sources of Vitamins A and E also help.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin are also now widely accepted alternative therapies.They are probably most effective when given early in the course of the disease; if you notice symptoms early it may be started before severe changes have occurred.They might help at any time. One product, Technyflex Canine is produced from mussels in New Zealand. Some anecdotal reports say that the human product available at your local pharmacy is also effective.
- Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine: I realize that these options are not available to everyone but have been successful when combined with other therapies. I do not want to make any recommendations for these therapies so unless you have a veterinarian that specializes in these treatments you should consider other options.
- Massage and hydrotherapy: Call around your area and find out if massage is available. If there is a pool available for your arthritic dog to exercise, there is a lot less stress on the joints.
- Organic diet: Especially one formulated for arthritic dogs, using collagen meat sources (like trachea) and the supplements I have discussed above.
- Apple cider vinegar: Doses and potential benefits can be found here.
- Herbal therapy to reduce inflammation and pain: There are several options available. To reduce inflammation you can try bromelain, parsley, or garlic. For pain, you can try St. Johns wort and cayenne. Herbal treatments may take a lot longer to show any benefits so if you want to try something consult a holistic veterinarian and start as early as possible.
Can All This Help Manage His Arthritis?
Besides alternative therapies, you should perform a weekly physical examination on your dog and be aware of any changes early.
If your dog is diagnosed with arthritis there are many options you can investigate. You can just say “he is old and there is nothing we can do about it” or you can aggressively treat his symptoms and give him several years of productive life.
Learn the symptoms of arthritis in your dog. Your dog deserves it.
Questions & Answers
My 14-year-old dog has been experiencing neck pain. He's had symptoms that lasted a day or two before. What could be wrong with him?
Part of his problem might be due to his conformation. Small dogs like Dachshunds have neck and back problems and will need to be examined, x-rayed, and may even need to have surgery to relieve the pressure on the spinal column. I am not sure this is a good idea at your dog's age.
Some other dog breeds will have problems with the vertebra of the neck. You can consult a holistic vet if one is available in your area and they might refer you to a veterinary chiropractor that can massage and align the bones in your dog's neck. Veterinary acupuncture is an option too, or if you have nowhere to turn to, you can try acupressure at home.
If it is simple arthritis, you can try some of the home remedies, but it might be so bad that it is justified to put your dog on anti-inflammatories. It is impossible for me to judge this without an exam.
My ten-year-old husky kicks his hind legs out as if his paws itch. The vet said it is lower back arthritis; however, the medication is not working. He takes Rimadyl twice a day. Recommendations?
If your vet has done X-rays of the back and diagnosed arthritis, I would look for some alternatives to the NSAID Rimadyl, even if it was not working. The first thing to try is glucosamine, then antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Also, be sure that your dog is not overweight.
© 2012 Dr Mark