As our pets are living longer, we are seeing more of the symptoms of old age. What many think is generalized old age in our pets, likely may be arthritis. While arthritis can happen at any age, it is much more common in our older patients. It is estimated that over half of our older dogs have arthritis.

Some of the signs that your dog may have arthritis are:

1. Difficulty sitting/standing and getting up.
2. Favoring a limb or limping
3. Sleeping more
4. Moving slow
5. Unable to jump or climb stairs
6. Weight gain
7. Decreased activity
8. Attitude or behavior changes

If you notice one or more of these sign for more than two weeks, take him/her to your veterinarian for a physical exam and possibly x-rays. Beginning a treatment plan as soon as possible is important to potentially slow the progression of the arthritis and get your pet comfortable again.

1. Diet and Weight Control – Monitoring your pet’s weight is a crucial element of their joint health. You should be able to easily feel your pets’ ribs and see a waist. Getting your pet to an ideal weight will decrease the stress on the joints. Many owners tell us their pet becomes much more active after weight loss.

2. Supplements – Supplementation is important to protect the joints as they attempt to repair itself. They include glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate and MSM. Addition of Omega 3 in fish oil capsules or cod liver oil may also be helpful. Your veterinarian can help you choose a product that is reputable.

3. Relieve pain and inflammation – Pet formulated medications for pain and inflammation can make a huge difference in the comfort level of arthritic pets. Rimadyl (Carprofen), Previcox, Deramaxx, and Metacam (Meloxicam) are examples of some of the medications prescribed. Long-term use of these drugs requires periodic blood tests to check liver function, but most dogs do quite well on them. Over the counter drugs used for people such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen should not be used, and aspirin can cause stomach ulcers.

4. Keep Moving! – It is important to keep these joints moving and prevent muscle loss. Provide limited, gentle exercise.

5. Soft Comfortable Bedding – Be sure to provide good soft bed to keep your pet off the cold hard floor and cushion his joints.

6. Acupuncture – Acupuncture is another modality that is used in dogs with arthritis.

7. Laser Therapy – Laser therapy is treatment specific to your pet and the areas they are having the discomfort. The treatment uses a small wand type device that brings light to the inflamed joints which stimulates cells and increases blood flow to that area.