One in five dogs will suffer from some form of arthritis, a degenerative disease which affects the connective tissue in their joints. Unfortunately, once it has begun, there is currently no cure for canine arthritis. However, once it is diagnosed, various treatments can substantially improve the canine’s overall quality of life. Most of these treatments are centered around managing symptoms by avoiding things that can make the arthritis worse.
A major issue to avoid is weight problems in the dog. The arthritis tends to make the dog lethargic and reluctant to exercise, as extra movement triggers pain. This often results in the dog gaining an unhealthy amount of weight. Unfortunately, the additional weight causes undue stress on the joints which can aggravate the symptoms of arthritis (not to mention other health problems related to obesity such as diabetes or heart disease). Although it may be difficult to get the dog to exercise, it is a measure that must be taken. Additionally, food intake and frequency must be carefully monitored.
In addition to controlling weight, other treatments for canine arthritis involve physical therapy and medications for pain management. The use of topical analgesics and corticosteroids to provide relief for the pain has proven effective in many cases. Acupuncture is another therapy that has shown noticeably positive results for arthritic dogs in some cases. Additionally, the use of chondroprotective agents to repair joint cartilage and prevent further damage has yielded noticeable results. Many of these methods can be used simultaneously for even greater results.
Monitored and moderate exercise has proven affective since it maintains muscle mass and aids in joint flexibility. Too much exercise, however, can do damage by hastening the destruction of connective tissue. Arthritic dogs should definitely be trained to avoid jumping repeatedly. Also, thought ought to avoid any sort of activity that involves standing on their hind legs (like begging) as these activities create extra stress on the joints. Dogs with pain and lameness should be exercised on a leash or a harness. The purpose of the harness is to prevent aggressive movements and to make sure that the pressure from the leash is more evenly distributed. Running, particularly on pavement with a human partner should be avoided at any cost. Another low-impact exercise that can provide both great exercise while avoiding high pressure injuries is swimming. Exercise can be achieved while enjoying the benefits of weightlessness in the water.
Some surgeries can be recommended by a vet in specific circumstances. One such surgery fuses joints together in order to avoid the sort of contact that causes pain. While this limits range of motion and flexibility, avoiding the pain can be a very worthwhile tradeoff. In any circumstance, it is advisable to consult a professional to prescribe a treatment for the dog. A veterinarian can tailor an exercise and medication regimen best suited to the needs of the particular dog. While no cure exists yet, the good news is that many dogs with canine arthritis live long and happy lives.