One of the most common mobility issues in dogs is osteoarthritis, which is also called degenerative joint disease (DJD). And while arthritis is primarily common to aging large or giant dog breeds, it can also affect dogs of different age and sizes whether they are male or female.
Unlike humans who suffer from arthritis, dogs don't have the capability to tell us whether they are hurt, nor can they look for relief for their pain. That's why as dog owners, it is important to be alert for signs of discomfort and pain, which includes subtle changes in a pet's habit and behavior.
Most people are aware that a dog suffering from arthritis may limp, move slowly and stiffly and can possibly have difficulty standing up after lying down. But aside from those, there are also less noticeable signs that dog parents must watch out for.
- Changes in eating habits
Your dog might begin to eat less not because he's hungry, but because he's experiencing a problem getting to his food bowl. Some more factors that can become a bigger challenge to him are a slippery floor, a staircase or a long walk to her food bowl.
Make sure that the location of your dog's food and water bowls is in a spot where he can easily access. If you have hard floors, put a small mat or rug to stabilize both the bowls and your dog. If your pet seems to have difficulty bending down, then you might consider having raised bowls.
- Change in grooming habits
A dog grooming himself may not be obvious as that of a kitten but dogs also engage in certain grooming activities such as shaking their entire body when they're wet or trying to get rid of excess hair.
When your dog is stiff and sore from arthritis, it is obviously impossible for him to do a full body shake. Help your dog through regular brushing sessions and towel drying after his bath or swim.
Some dogs also clean the area around their backsides and genitalia, which will be difficult for a dog suffering from a joint problem. Another arthritis discomfort that your dog might experience is getting into the proper posture necessary to pee or poop, which if not noticed early, may result in self-soiling.
Make sure to always check your dog's back end and undercarriage and help with the cleanup if necessary.
Dogs with painful arthritis don't move around that much compared to healthy dogs, so their nails tend to grow longer, faster. This can also add a burden to your dog while walking specially that he is already dealing with mobility issues. Be sure to clip your dog's nails regularly to keep them short.
3.Change in personality
If your dog is uncomfortable most of the time because of the pain, he'll probably become irritable. If the pain worsens, he might show some aggression if he's bumped or jostled, or if it hurts when you try to pick him up or move him.
If your dog has never shown aggression and suddenly does, then you definitely might suspect for a painful condition. Typically, dogs who behave aggressively because of pain only do so when their sore joints are manipulated, or when they're being forced to move in a manner that is painful to them.
It is important to include extra caution when you're lifting your dog, and when there are children around who might accidentally bump or fall into him.
- Changes in exercise or play habits
One of the most common signs of progressive DJD in dogs is a decrease in physical activity.
Your dog may become less playful than he once was, or he may not want to walk as far as you used to on your daily walks. If he loves to play fetch, you may notice that he seems to be tiring out more easily even before your arm does.
Since exercise is very important for every pet, even those that have arthritis, be sure to continue to get your dog walking or to visit the dog park everyday while respecting the decrease in his energy and endurance.
- Changes in interaction with family members
Because your dog can't move around as easily as he once could, you may notice changes in the way he interacts with you.
He may no longer be doing the usual things that he does like waiting at the bottom of the stairs to greet you when you come through the door. He may not follow you around anymore or jump next to you when you sit on your favorite chair.
To ensure your dog continues to feel a part of your family, make the effort to go to him when he doesn't or can't come to you. For example, be the one to find him or greet him when you come home. Also, place a comfortable dog bed on the floor in the area of your house where you spend most of your time.
Relieving Your Dog's Discomfort
Here are some natural substances and therapies that have shown to be beneficial to dogs with arthritis:
- High-quality omega-3 supplement (krill oil is highly recommended)
- Glucosamine sulfate, perna mussel, MSM, and egg shell membrane supplements
- Turmeric or curcumin
- Super green foods such as spirulina and astaxanthin
- Homeopathic Rhus Tox, arnica and others that fit the animal's symptoms
- Natural anti-inflammatory formulas (herbs such as proteolytic enzymes, boswellia, and nutraceuticals such as SAMe)
- Injectable join support such as Adequan and polysulfated glycosaminoglycans
- Raw, frozen, fresh food prescription diets containing several joint supportive foods.
Natural therapies that can be beneficial to pets with arthritis include:
- Chiropractic care
- Stretching your dog
- Acupuncture treatments
- Several types of physical therapy such as gentle hydrotherapy, cryotherapy, heat therapy, extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) and low-level laser therapy.
- Chondroprotective agents
It is important to note that arthritis is a progressive disease, so it is very important to routinely monitor your dog's symptoms and adjust his arthritis protocol to meet the changing demands of his body.