ARTHRITIS IN DOGS; CAUSES, SYMPTOMS, TREATMENT

Arthritis in dogs is a common problem, especially in senior dogs 8 years old +, as well as larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Newfoundlands, and Mastiffs. In addition, obese dogs of any breed are also at greater risk of developing Arthritis.

WHAT IS ARTHRITIS IN DOGS?


Arthritis in dogs is also known as Osteoarthritis in dogs, Dejenerative Joint Disease in dogs, or 
Canine arthritis. But whatever you call it, it's a progressive inflammation of the joints caused by deterioration of cartilage. Wear and tear of the cartilage around the joints causes this deterioration and subsequent inflammation.

A dog's cartilage is the cushioning that allows their joints to move easily and enables dogs to have full range of motion.  When cartilage starts breaking down it causes inflammation, pain, and a decrease in range of motion for the dog.

Most often, Arthritis effects a dog's limbs and lower spine.  It is a progressive condition for which there is No cure. However, if you identify and address it early, your dog can stay active and maintain very good quality of life for years to come!

CAUSES OF ARTHRITIS IN DOGS


The main causes of Arthritis in dogs are;


🐾 Age: 80% of dogs 8 years old or older develop arthritis. 20% of dogs show signs by the time they are only 1 year old. However, most younger dogs with arthritis get the condition due to inherited, or congenital, traits

🐾 Congenital joint disorders such as elbow or hip dysplasia. These may result in arthritis in much younger dogs

🐾 Old injuries. Just like us humans, old injuries often cause arthritis in the joints

🐾 Repetitive stress on the dog's joints or spine. This is often caused by high exertion dog athletic activities such as dock diving, sled racing, skijoring, flyball, disc catching, or agility.

🐾 A dog being overweight (Obesity). Excess weight puts added stress on a dog's joints, which can cause damage to joints that results in Canine Arthritis

🐾 Diseases such as Diabetes, which causes changes in the musculoskeletal system, and Cushing's disease which causes inflammation that can exacerbate dogs joint degeneration.



The below visual from Parnell Living Science shows Osteoarthritis risk factors by dog breed. The chart shows which dog breeds are at Low, Medium, High, and Very High risk for arthritis.  

Dog Breeds At Risk For Arthritis: Arthritis Breed List Chart provided with permission from Parnell Living Science

According to this chart, my dogs Icy (a Siberian Husky) and Phoebe (Havanese/Maltese mix) are both at Medium risk for Osteoarthritis - Whew! I was so worried that Icy would be on the very high end, being a Husky. They are senior dogs now, so I'm becoming more focused on their mobility.


COMMON SIGNS OF DOGS WITH ARTHRITIS SYMPTOMS


Some of the symptoms dogs exhibit that may indicate arthritis are;


🐾 Your dog is limping, appears stiff in the legs or back, has difficulty getting up or climbing stairs, or seems to be in pain when attempting to get in position to potty.

🐾 Your normally energetic dog suddenly seems Lethargic

🐾 Your dog no longer wants to run, jump, take the walks she normally enjoys, or play.

🐾 Changes in your dog's behavior, or suddenly experiences pain when touched on the spine area or limbs. Your normally gentle dog may actually growl or snap when touched in areas impacted by painful arthritis!

It's important to visit your Veterinarian regularly and have your dog checked for early signs of Osteoarthritis, especially as she ages.

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Arthritis in Dogs; Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


ARTHRITIS IN DOGS TREATMENT


There are several ways to treat arthritis in dogs.  There are a number of non-medical options, as well as medical approaches your Veterinarian can recommend. I like to try non-medical methods first if I can, opting for medications or other therapies after I've exhausted more natural methods.

Let's talk about natural ways to treat arthritis in dogs first;


👉 Supplements such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin are natural compounds found in healthy cartilage, the connective tissue that cushions joints. These supplements are made in a lab, using the cartilage of animals such as pigs, cows, even the shells of shellfish. These supplements can help slow the loss of cartilage in dogs, relieving a dog's arthritis.

👉 Omega3 supplements found in fish oils or fresh fish such as salmon, anchovies, and sardines can help reduce inflammation and keep your dog's joints healthy. Reducing inflammation can lessen joint damage and the symptoms of a dog's arthritis.  

Icy and Phoebe love salmon and fish oil so as they age I've been adding salmon oil to their food daily. I also feed them salmon when I can. When frozen salmon goes on sale I buy a couple of bags for my dogs.  Fish oils are also excellent antioxidents!

👉 One of the best ways you can start helping dogs with arthritis pain is through weight control, if the dog is overweight. Losing weight can slow further joint damage and lessen the pain of arthritis.

👉 Walking and Non strenuous, lower impact exercise are beneficial types of exercise for dogs with Osteoarthritis. Exercise keeps muscles toned and strong and can assist in keeping a dog's weight under control. It won't help a dog's arthritis if he becomes a couch potato! Every dog is different so consult your Veterinarian on what type and how much exercise your dog can safely engage in.

👉 Your Veterinarian may recommend other treatments such as physical therapy, massage, or acupuncture.

Now for the medical options. Most of the medical methods used as dog arthritis treatment focus on pain management, slowing down joint degeneration, and encouraging cartilage repair. They include;


👉 NSAIDs, or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation and pain.

👉 Steroids or Cortisone pills or injections to reduce inflammation. These are usually a bit stronger than NSAIDs.

👉 Chondroprotectants, which prevent joint degeneration and help protect joint cartilage as it repairs itself. They inhibit the enzymes that destroy cartilage.

👉 If the degenerative joint damage in dogs is severe, surgery may be recommended. There are a few different types of surgeries that can be done. Your Vet will explain those options if needed.

As you can see, there are quite a few treatment options for dogs with Arthritis. However, the AKC (American Kennel Club) maintains that Diet, Exercise, and Joint Supplements are some of the best ways to prevent the development of Osteoarthritis and keep your dog's joints healthy.  PETMD agrees with that assessment, recommending proper diet and exercise, joint supplements, and routine Veterinary visits.

DISCLAIMERI am not a Veterinarian or Vet Tech, nor do I play one online! I share my own research and what's worked for my dogs and my foster dogs. As always, be sure to check with your Veterinarian before making any changes to your dog's diet, giving them supplements (even natural ones), or altering their exercise routines. Every dog is different and your Vet knows your pet best.

HOW YOU CAN MAKE YOUR ARTHRITIC DOG MORE COMFORTABLE 

If your Veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with arthritis, there are things you can do to make her more comfortable right away. As you weigh the various treatment options and wait for any blood work or imaging results for your dog, there are a few things you can implement right now;

🐾 Control your dog's diet and keep her weight at an optimal level. Joints will deteriorate faster if a dog is overweight. Take the strain off your dog's joints and bones by keeping them at the proper weight, or at least start working towards it. Consult your Veterinarian and get some guidance before changing your dog's diet.

🐾 Give her a nice soft bed to relax and sleep on. Personally, I like orthopedic pet beds. Icy and Phoebe are both senior dogs, so I like that orthopedic beds give them better joint and bone support. I can tell that Orthopedic beds for dogs are clearly more comfortable for them!

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Icy & Phoebe love the comfort of orthopedic beds for dogs


🐾 Install ramps like this one, the CozyUp Steps & Ramp Combo from PetSafe to help arthritic dogs get in the car, and on your bed or sofa easier and safely.  I won this fabulous Ramp/Step on my friend Paula's blog, Sweet Purrfections. It can be a huge help for dogs or cats suffering from arthritis and having trouble getting into the car or up on furniture or your bed.

The CozyUp Steps & Ramp is a combination steps & ramp all in one.  Check out the Sweet Purrfections blog link above to learn more about it. 


🐾 Another thing I find helpful is to ensure the fur between my dogs' paws remains trimmed. When that hair gets long, it causes my dogs' legs to slip on hard surfaces. 

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Trimming fur on paw pads can help reduce leg strain in dogs with arthritis


The slipping and their constant attempts to regain balance causes strain on their legs. Icy is especially prone to that, I need to trim the hair at the bottom of her paws often. 

There are many ways to help dogs with arthritis live a very full, happy and healthy life. Know the signs of arthritis and the varied options available to address the condition.

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3 OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DOG TRAINING COMMANDS

Training a dog takes time and patience. Dog training isn't a one and done activity, it's an ongoing process. In my experience, teaching your dog 3 of the most important dog training commands should be at the top of every dog owners list.  

I consider these 3 basic obedience commands for dogs to be more than training, they're an important part of keeping a dog safe throughout her life!

3 OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DOG TRAINING COMMANDS



If you're wondering what kind of training dogs need, there are many obedience commands you should teach your dog. However, I'm not exaggerating when I say that any one of these 3 basic dog training commands could potentially save your dog's life one day!  When I'm asked about dog training tips, I emphasize that these are 3 training commands you should teach your dog almost immediately.


TEACH A DOG TO STAY


I'm starting with training a dog to Stay because it's one of the most basic dog commands and is fairly easy for a dog to learn. The Stay command has so many important uses.  When your dog can reliably stay put when you give the command it will help avoid:

🐾 Door dashing from the house when you open the door to get the mail, greet guests, or leave the house.  A dog can easily run into the road and be hit by a car, be attacked by another dog or other animal, or run away in pursuit of a cat or squirrel and become lost. 

🐾 Jumping out of the car when you take the dog to the Vet or go out for a fun adventure. Your dog could jump from the car right into traffic or in front of a car trying to park next to you. The dog could take off and run into a dangerous area such as woods, a construction area, or fast moving water.

We re-enforce the Stay command with our dogs every day. Icy and Phoebe must Sit and Stay each morning and evening at mealtime. We put them in a Sit/Stay, place their bowls on the floor, then give the OK or Take It command.  

We go on many adventures with our dogs, and every time we open the car door we tell them to Stay. Every single time. They know not to jump out of the car until we give them the OK.

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3 of the Most Important Dog Training Commands


Teaching the Stay command is easy using some treats or healthy snacks like carrots:

✦ Put your dog into a Sit position, and stand or sit in front of her. Place your hand in front of her nose and say Stay!

✦ If she doesn't move after a few seconds, reward her with a treat and praise her.  If she doesn't stay in place though, don't give the reward. Say No, or Ah, Ah! and try again. Use a calm voice, never get annoyed or frustrated. It can take a few tries.

✦ As you repeat the Stay exercise, increase the length of time of the stay before you give the treat.
 
✦ Gradually increase the distance between you and the dog as you ask her to Stay.  As you increase the distance, your dog should stay put until you return to her and reward her patience. Give the treat while she's still in the Stay position. Re-enforce the Stay command frequently in your daily life with your dog!


TEACH A DOG TO COME RELIABLY EVERY TIME



Come When Called is another basic dog training command. It's one of the first and most important things you'll teach your puppy or newly adopted dog. 

But think about how many times a day you call your dog to come to you - about a million, right?  After awhile your basic Come When Called command loses it's sense of urgency for your dog and she may start to ignore it.  The typical Come training command for dogs may not be strong enough in dangerous or urgent scenarios like these:

🐾 Off leash at the dog park, on a hike, or at the beach, when your dog is simply having way too much fun to listen to your command to come back!

🐾 If your dog runs out the door to chase a cat. She may tune you out, and that could end very badly.

🐾 If your dog encounters an unfriendly off leash dog or a wild animal like a skunk.

🐾 If you see your dog getting too close to something dangerous like traffic, someone's baby, or a patch of poison ivy.

There's the Come When Called command you use every day, and then there is a more urgent Emergency Recall command. You don't want to call your dog to you all day every day with extreme urgency, as your dog may start tuning you out. But for those times when it's crucial for your dog to STOP what they're doing and come running to you immediately, it's a critical command to teach a dog.

The Steps To Teach Your Dog an Emergency Recall are easy and shouldn't take much time to train your dog to do.  You'll pick a word or phrase, as well as a special, unique treat to go with it. This signals to your dog that this is no ordinary recall.  Read about our Emergency Recall training for Icy and Phoebe and see the steps I used to teach my dogs an emergency recall.

You won't need to use an emergency recall all that frequently (hopefully!), but practice it fairly regularly to make sure your dog doesn't forget it.  After more than 10 years, I still re-enforce the emergency recall with my dogs every now and then, to make certain they always remember it when needed.


TEACH A DOG TO LEAVE IT


The Leave It command can save your sanity if you have a multi-pet household like we do. It can also help keep your dog safe when they encounter unwanted animals or objects. This can be during walks, in the home, virtually anywhere your dog goes. 

We use the Leave It command constantly, especially with Icy. She is so curious, and she's fast. In seconds she can get herself into anything! 

The Leave It command is helpful in many situations:

🐾 Prevent your dog from sticking her nose into dead animals (road kill) or animal feces (they can have disease or bacteria) encountered on walks or when you're out exploring.

🐾 If dogs find food in the street or sidewalk. You never know what some people might drop or throw out a car window!
 
🐾 If your dog starts lunging at another dog or animal during a walk and you need him to leave that animal alone. 

🐾 If the dog tries to drink standing water, which could contain toxic algae or other contaminants. Same thing if they try to drink ocean, lake, or river water you know will be unhealthy.  

When Icy was a puppy we were on a walk, when next thing you know she had grabbed an apple core she found on the sidewalk into her mouth! She began choking and my husband had to reach into her mouth and pry the apple core out! Thank goodness he was able to get it out before she choked.  Now we keep our eyes peeled and use the Leave It command as soon as we see anything along walks or outings that might pose a hazard.

My post on how the Leave It command restored harmony in our house has the steps we used to teach our dogs the Leave It command. It also shares the story about how the Leave It command training helped stop Icy from chasing our poor cat Maggie! 

The key to making these commands second nature for your dog to obey is consistency and re-enforcement.  Every member of the household needs to be on board with helping your dog learn these important obedience commands and should help re-enforce them with the dog.

Not only are these three of the most important dog commands for training, I consider them some of the most important dog safety tips I can share.

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3 of the Most Important Dog Training Commands


As dog parents, we want our dogs to have good manners and learn basic obedience commands. More importantly though, we want to keep our dogs Safe and Healthy!  These three dog training commands help us do that.

I re-enforce all three of these commands with Icy and Phoebe regularly in our daily lives. This helps ensure not only that they remember each command and it's meaning, but it ensures they respond to these commands reliably even when something extremely enticing is grabbing their attention. 

What dog training tips do you consider to be most important for your dog?  Post a comment and share! We love hearing from our readers.

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You can find more helpful dog training tips on the Animal Planet web site It's a great resource.

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