Many people associate arthritis with elderly dogs, however dogs of all ages can be affected by this debilitating condition. So what is arthritis, how do you know if your dog is affected and what can you do to help?

What is Arthritis?
Arthritis occurs when there is an inflammation of the joints that leads to deterioration of the cartilage. This results in limited mobility and is often very painful for the dog. The main cause of arthritis is general wear and tear of the joints, which is why we see it occur so often in older dogs. But other factors can also determine how quickly a dog develops the condition such as injury, genetic makeup, infection, immune disease and cancer.

What are the Symptoms?
Most dogs will power through symptoms of arthritis and are very reluctant to show any signs of pain or injury. Symptoms can be subtle such as a reluctance to walk up stairs, or severe causing limping or lameness.

The most common signs to look out for are:

– Reluctance to walk, climb stairs, jump or play
– Limping/lameness
– Slower than normal walking gait
– Showing pain or stiffness when rising or lying down
– Yelping when touched
– Licking of the joints
– A change in behavior

Although arthritis can affect any joint in the body, the most common areas dogs tend to suffer are the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows. So pay particular attention to these areas of concern.

How Can You Help?
There are a number of prescription medicines on the market to help combat arthritis, however there are also quite a few lifestyle remedies that you can implement at home that can be very effective.

Weight Management
Weight-loss and exercise are probably two of the most beneficial treatments for arthritis. If your dog is carrying around extra pounds this puts unnecessary stress and pressure on the joints worsening the condition and your dog’s pain. While you might think you are rewarding your dog with food treats, you are really doing more harm. Providing a healthy diet is the best “treat” you can give your dog. Specialized dog foods are widely available that contain ingredients such as Glucosamine and fish oil, both of which contain agents that protect the joints and reduce inflammation. Talk to your KVH vet, they will recommend a food that would be most beneficial to treating your dogs symptoms and managing their weight.

Exercise
Regular exercise is also instrumental in managing arthritis. However don’t overdo it. Sporadic walks, chasing balls and other non-continuous activities can be detrimental to your dog’s condition further damaging the joints. Controlled, consistent exercise keeps the joints moving and the muscles working which is extremely beneficial in maintaining your dog’s health. So develop a daily exercise routine and stick to it, both you and your dog will benefit.

If you are concerned about your dog’s weight or exercise habits call us at Kowloon Veterinary Hospital to find out about our Fit-For-Life Pet Program. We’ll help you develop a plan so your dog stays active and healthy for years to come.

Comfort
If your dog is diagnosed with arthritis, you may have to make some changes around the home to suit your dog’s lessened mobility. Simple things like providing extra bedding, ramps to elevated areas, raised eating areas and assistance in moving can easily be implemented and make all the difference in your dog’s day to day comfort.

What We Can Do To Help
At Kowloon Veterinary Hospital the first thing we do if you suspect your dog may be suffering from arthritis is order a full clinical examination. Through tests and x-rays we will determine exactly what is happening in your dog’s joints. We will then develop a plan of action specifically suited to your dog’s individual needs.

Medication
In the most severe cases medications are the best option. This can range from a series of injections, which need to be repeated every 1-3 months, or daily medication. Both are known to have very high success rates, but also require the close observation of a veterinarian. At KVH we recommend regular check ups when taking these medications so we can closely monitor organ function, dosage and side effects if any.

Physical Therapies
In both severe and mild cases, physical therapy can be quite beneficial. It is vital to get advice from a qualified pet therapist before attempting any of this therapy yourself. At KVH one of our professionals will treat your dog, and demonstrate how you can also assist with exercises at home. The goal is to improve strength and mobility without causing additional stress to the joints. This can be done through active and passive stretching, water therapy and specific muscle building exercises.

At KVH we also specialize in animal acupuncture, with all treatments being performed by a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. This age old therapy has been practiced for hundreds of years and can be very helpful in managing pain and medication side effects. Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate the body’s own healing processes by triggering certain chemicals and neuro-hormonal reactions in the body. It has been widely successful in treating arthritis in both pets and people.

Surgery
As a last resort, and only in severe cases, we may recommend surgery, but it is very specific to each dog and dependant on their particular levels of deterioration. There are a number of different procedures available. The most important aspect of surgery is post-operative care. After your dog leaves surgery we will provide a detailed plan to get them up and healthy in no time. Rest is important, but early mobilization, weight bearing activities and tips on how to safely get back into action are vital. Your KVH vet will educate you with everything you need to know to care for your dog at home.

We’re Here to Help
While there is no cure for arthritis, early detection is key to managing the acceleration and severity of the disease. Fortunately most dog lovers are extremely in tune with any changes in their dog’s behavior. If you notice any of these symptoms or suspect your dog may be in pain, contact Kowloon Veterinary Hospital at 2382 3300, to schedule a thorough check up. There are many treatments available; with your KVH veterinarian’s guidance, arthritis can be managed and doesn’t have to mean a life of pain for your pooch.

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