Arthritis in older dogs

With the weather getting colder, you might notice that your senior dog is experiencing a bit more joint pain and stiffness than usual.

If this is the case, then your pooch may have arthritis. Being a degenerative joint disease, arthritis most commonly affects older dogs. While it is a common ailment, with some intervention, it is possible to slow down its progression and have your dog live a long and relatively active life.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is caused when the cartilage between joints becomes damaged, causing swelling and stiffness. Arthritis is more common in older dogs due to the wear and tear on their joints from years of activity, which slowly degrades the cartilage over time. It is possible for dogs to be diagnosed at a younger age, but this is typically due to a genetic predisposition, obesity or result of an injury.

What are the signs of arthritis in older dogs?

The symptoms of arthritis can include both physical and behavioural changes and often develop quite slowly over time. Many pet owners notice their senior dog having trouble with stairs or getting up and down and put it down to old age. However, this decrease in mobility may well be a sign of arthritis.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Stiffness when walking or getting up from lying down
  • Tiredness, and less interest in going for walks or playing
  • No longer jumping up onto the bed or a chair
  • Limping during or after walking
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Irritability
  • Licking or chewing at a leg joint
  • Sensitivity when touched on their legs
  • Having toileting accidents inside

How is arthritis diagnosed?

It is important to make an appointment with your vet if you notice any of the above signs. While they are common symptoms for arthritis in older dogs, they can also be an indication of other illnesses and conditions.

At your consultation, your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination of your dog to check for stiffness and pain in their joints, as well as to rule out any other health issues. They will also have a lengthy discussion with you about any symptoms or behavioural changes you may have noticed. Your vet may run some diagnostic testing such as blood tests and X-rays to get a full picture of your dog’s health.

What are the treatment options?

Older dog with arthritis

While arthritis can’t be cured, there are a number of ways to help manage your dog’s pain and keep them as active as possible. Once your vet has made a diagnosis of arthritis, they will discuss the treatment options that are appropriate for your dog, considering their age, the progression of the condition, and any other underlying health conditions.

Possible treatment options can include natural supplements such as 4CYTE and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (known as NSAIDS). Keeping your dog active, with shorter, slow walks, and controlling their weight as also two important elements of managing arthritis. There are also prescription diet dog foods available that can help to support your dog’s joint health.

Your vet will also recommend some ways that you can help your dog at home with their daily activities. These could include:

  • Having your dog’s bed at floor level for easy access. The bed should be nice and padded, with lots of blankets to keep them warm during colder nights.
  • Elevating their food and water bowls so your dog doesn’t need to bend down unnecessarily
  • Purchasing some pet-friendly ramps to make it easier for your pooch to get to their favourite resting spots, such as the couch.
  • Placing rugs down on slippery surfaces that are heavily frequented by your dog.
  • Helping your dog into the car.

Our small animal vets are here to help

While arthritis is a progressive condition, an early diagnosis and appropriate management plan can help keep your dog happy and comfortable for a long time.

All of the appointments at our Gawler East small animal vet clinic are 30 minutes long, so our vets have plenty of time to discuss your dog’s health and provide detailed advice on how best to manage their arthritis.

To make an appointment, you can book online, call us on 08 8318 1801, or drop into the clinic at the Springwood Place shopping complex.