Canine Arthritis

October 24, 2017

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Arthritis in dogs is one of the most common health problems seen by veterinarians. Unfortunately for dog owners, dogs are so resilient and tend to ignore soreness and discomfort, thus making it hard to spot any early warning signs. Many dog owners and vets don’t see these signs until the arthritic changes have significantly progressed.

Symptoms of canine arthritis include:
An intermittent limp, hopping, stiffness after rest or exercise, an abnormal walking stance, dragging the back feet, unwillingness to stand up or move, warm, swollen, tender joints, sore joints, visible joint deformities, lack of interest in playing, inability to jump onto familiar surfaces, increased inactivity or sleep, weight loss from not eating or weight gain from inactivity, irritability, and snapping or growling when joints are touched.

Sadly, there’s no way to predict whether your puppy will develop arthritis. Knowing the risk factors, though, can help you anticipate and treat the symptoms.

Risk factors include:
Size – Larger breeds and overweight dogs are more likely to develop joint problems.
Age – The risk of arthritis increases with age.
Genetics – Any breed can develop arthritis, but some are well known for it. These breeds include Labs, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds.
Joint abnormalities – Hip and elbow dysplasia both put stress on the joints.
Stress and trauma – Prolonged stress on joints can make active dogs more susceptible to arthritis.
Inflammatory diet – Some common foods can trigger flare-ups in both humans and dogs.
Tick bites – Ticks can infect dogs with Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Ehrlichiosis. All of these can cause arthritis.
Diabetes – Dogs with diabetes are more likely to develop arthritis.
Vitamin D deficiency – Dogs with arthritis also often have low levels of vitamin D.

There are many treatments you can try if your dog has arthritis. It is important that you consult with your vet before trying any of these treatments out. One thing you can start with is altering your dog’s diet. As mentioned above, some foods can trigger flare-ups. Altering your dog’s diet may also help them lose some weight (if necessary). You can also try glycosaminoglycans (or  GAGs), GAGs are the most commonly prescribed supplements for dogs with arthritis. GAGs help rebuild cartilage and restore joint fluid rather than just reduce the symptoms.Consult with your vet to see which treatment option is right for your dog.

Herbal Remedies
There are also herbal remedies for treating arthritis pain. Herbal remedies are becoming more widely used for treating humans and animals and it is becoming much easier to access medicinal herbs and plants these days.

Analgesics (also known as anodynes) help relieve pain. Depending on the herb, they can be used internally or externally.
Anti-inflammatory herbs inhibit the effect of pain and inflammation in the body.
Antispasmodic herbs are good for preventing and easing muscle spasms as well as cramps.
Nervines calm the nerves. This reduces tension and anxiety.
Rubefacient herbs increase circulation and promote warmth.
Tonic herbs restore and strengthen the entire system.

There are many helpful herbs to consider for your dog, including cayenne, chamomile, ginger, horsetail, licorice root, passion flower, rosemary, sweet marjoram, turmeric, and valerian. There are many products available for your dog that contain these herbs. Once again, be sure to talk to your vet before starting any treatment.

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Resources: PetMD, The Whole Dog Journal