Arthritis in dogs

Written by Dr Andrew Miller MRCVSDr Andrew Miller MRCVS is an expert veterinary working in the field for over 10 years after graduating from Bristol University. Andy fact checks and writes for Pure Pet Food while also working as a full time veterinarian. Pure Pet FoodPure Pet Food are the experts in healthy dog food and healthy dogs featured in media outlets such as BBC, Good Housekeeping and The Telegraph. Working with high profile veterinary professionals and nutritionists, Pure Pet Food are changing dog food for the better. - Our editorial process

Just like in humans, our dogs are vulnerable to developing arthritis too. The condition involves the inflammation and swelling of the joints, consequently causing joint pain and poor mobility. Unfortunately, arthritis (osteoarthritis) is a degenerative joint condition, meaning that it will progress and worsen over time.

Although it typically occurs in senior pooches, plenty of younger dogs can be impacted too.

Poor health and weight are directly linked to the development of this condition in the younger ones, so a nutritious diet alongside regular exercise is essential to prevent the early onset of arthritis.

What causes arthritis in dogs?

The area where two bones connect are called joints, which are essential parts of the anatomy that enable movement. For instance, the hips and elbows.

As bones have a smooth surface, it allows them to move past each other easily. However, when a bone becomes damaged with an uneven surface, the bones will scrape against each other causing friction and hindered movement. Subsequently, the affected joints become swelled and inflamed.

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Main causes:

Old age – Arthritis is directly linked to older age, both in humans and dogs. As a dog parent, it is upsetting to see your friend grow older, and there is no way to stop arthritis occurring in older dogs.

Joint injuries – Most dogs love to run, leap and bound. All these activities are high impact and can cause joint trauma which lead to the risk of developing arthritis.

Hip Dysplasia – This is usually a genetic condition, and it is when the hip joints do not slot together as they should. Ultimately this causes the type of swelling and stiffness that can lead to arthritis.

Underdevelopment of joints – Getting a puppy is exciting and it might be tempting to take your new friend for a long walk or run. However, excessive exercise can cause damage to their joints. This can be tricky as larger breeds require more exercise, but their joints are more easily damaged than the smaller breeds.

Obesity – Arthritis in dogs is one of the most common side effects stemming from obesity. Their joints are not equipped to carry the additional weight which causes stress and increased pressure on the joints.

Dog breeds prone to arthritis

Arthritis can occur in breeds of all shapes and sizes, however larger breeds are more commonly impacted. Great Danes, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and Rottweilers are all prone to the condition.

Generally, increased size and weight means more pressure on the joints, which leads to arthritis. The joints of larger breeds do not develop completely as quickly as they do for smaller breeds, so it is also easy for their joints to become damaged when they are young.

What are the symptoms of arthritis in dogs?

  • Joint stiffness and poor mobility

  • Not wanting to exercise

  • Being slower than usual

  • In pain when touched (irritable/aggressive)

  • Fatigue

  • Limping

  • Biting, chewing and licking the affected area

How to treat arthritis in dogs

Your dog may seem to have aged drastically and just lacking that lease for life that they used to have. Staying vigilant is essential, and recognising these signs early is the best way to prevent the condition worsening.

Obviously, this is understandably not always possible. However, if you do think they are struggling or notice any of the symptoms detailed above, you must consult your vet.

Vets are likely to recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) alongside joint supplements to ease the pain and reduce the inflammation. Unfortunately, it is a degenerative joint disease so there is no complete cure.

Therefore, the treatment will be centred around managing the condition and ensuring the best quality of life for your dog. There are many methods to ease the pain for your pup and make certain they can enjoy a long, happy life.

Being reasonable and understanding with your dog is essential. Owners must be aware that some activities that were a part of their usual routine may not be possible anymore. For example, going on long walks or simply just not being able to jump up and down off the sofa anymore.

Living with arthritis will be tough on your pup, so here are some ideas to help:

  • Losing weight if necessary

  • Installing ramps to the sofa/bed

  • Non-slip floors

  • A soft comfortable bed

  • Dogs with neck/back pain may benefit from an elevated food bowl

  • Managing temperatures, cold temperatures can cause stiffened joints (in the winter putting a coat on your dog for walks)

  • Canine hydrotherapy

How can I prevent arthritis in my dog?

Prevention can begin from an early age over the long term. If your dog is still a puppy, their joints will still be developing and are much more susceptible to the kind of damage that will lead to arthritis. Therefore, it is vital that they are not over exercising and jumping up and down from high areas.

Weight management is crucial in preventing the early onset of arthritis as the added weight causes extra pressure onto the joints. A healthy, nutritious diet and the suitable amount of exercise is fundamental for preventing arthritis.

What's the best dog food for arthritis?

Dietary intervention can considerably improve arthritis. Watching the debilitating side effects that arthritis causes can be difficult, and the food you give your furry friend may not be helping the situation.

Kibble is a popular dog food choice, and whilst it may be cheap, it’s ultra-processed and leaves dogs lacking.

Although an ultra-processed dog food such as kibble may be labelled as natural, nutritious, or even specifically branded for joint health, it may not be as good as it seems. Doing the research and choosing a dog food (like air-dried) that contains natural ingredients and isn’t ultra-processed will be fundamental in improving your dog’s health on all aspects, not just arthritis.

Pure attends to all your dog’s requirements, listening to age, weight, breed and any health problems or allergies. Consequently, Pure will create a tailored menu for your dog that will be completely natural and human-quality food, with no added nasties.

As obesity has a huge influence on joint stress, your dog needs a diet perfectly portioned to them, to prevent them from piling on the pounds. Pure contains all the nutrients your dog needs in every single bite to keep their health in tip-top shape.

For a dog with arthritis, the aim is to reduce the inflammation in the joints, which is done through the correct ingredients.

Pure uses ingredients with properties known to help arthritis and joint mobility. For example, omega 3 from DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which have anti-inflammatory qualities and will reduce the pain that arthritis inflicts on your dog.

Alongside this, glucosamine and chondroitin are both key ingredients to aid dogs with arthritis, also used in Pure. The two operate simultaneously with each other, glucosamine being vital to lessen the pain that joint damage causes by trying to upkeep healthy cartilage and joints, and chondroitin works to reduce the cartilage-destroying enzymes.

Ultimately, your choice of dog food can play a huge role in helping your dog live a healthy, long happy life. Feeding your dog Pure can improve your dog’s health and weight, helping to prevent arthritis, or if your dog already struggles with arthritis, it can ensure your dog gets all the nutrients needed to still enjoy all aspects of life.

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