The most common mobility issue in dogs is osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease (DJD).
Arthritis can affect all dogs of all ages and sizes, male and female. Most pet owners only see the visual effects of arthritis in their older dogs and more often in large and giant breeds.
Unlike people with arthritis, dogs can’t tell us where or how much they hurt, nor can they seek relief for their pain. It’s up to us to help them. We need to stay alert for signs of discomfort. Small subtle changes in your pet’s habits and behaviour might signal a problem.
As a survival tactic animals have evolved into stoic creatures i.e. they endure pain without showing their feelings or complaining and rarely display outward signs of pain or discomfort. Fortunately for our fur buddies, many veterinarians today are much more “tuned in” to pain management than in the past.
They look for subtle signs of pain in order to discover the early stages of arthritis because they know that outright limping or vocalizing from pain may well be the end stage of long-term joint degeneration.
You also need to be aware of these subtle changes in your dog’s behaviour and be aware that small changes may be the first indicators of joint discomfort from arthritis.
Most people are aware that a dog with arthritis may limp. These dogs are likely to move slowly or stiffly. They can have difficulty standing up after lying down. But these dogs already show signs of advanced joint damage.
There are also other, less noticeable signs to watch out for in your fur buddy. If caught early, osteoarthritis is much easier to manage and degeneration may be slowed down.
Let’s see how we can try to see the signs early:
6 Subtle Signs Your Dog Has Mobility Issues
1 Changes in grooming habits
It’s not as obvious as when kitty grooms herself. Dogs also engage in certain grooming activities like shaking their entire body when they’re wet or to get rid of excess hair.
For obvious reasons, a full body shake will be difficult or impossible for a dog who is stiff and sore with arthritis. You can help your dog through regular brushing sessions, and towel drying after a bath or swim.
Many dogs also clean the area around their backsides and genitalia. This is more difficult for a dog with joint problems. Arthritis discomfort can prevent your pet from getting into the proper posture to pee or poop. This may result in self-soiling.
Help your pet by checking your pet’s back end and undercarriage regularly and help clean up if necessary.
Arthritis pain stops dogs from moving around as much as healthy dogs. This causes their nails to grow longer, faster, making walking even more difficult for a dog. Be sure to clip your dog’s nails on a regular basis to keep them short.
2 Changes in eating habits
Your dog may begin eating less. This is not because he isn’t hungry, but because there’s a problem getting to his food bowl. Slippery floors, stairs or a long walk to the bowl can make getting a meal a bigger challenge than your dog can handle comfortably.
Make sure your dog’s food and water bowls are located in a spot that’s easy for your fur buddy to get to. If you have hard floors, put a small mat or rug down to stabilize both bowl and dog. Consider raised bowls if your pet seems to have difficulty bending down.
3 Changes in exercise or play habits
A hallmark sign of progressive DJD in dogs is a decrease in physical activity.
Your dog may be less playful than he once was, or he may not want to go out as far as he used to on your daily walks. His favourite game of fetch may cause him to tire out before your arm does.
Exercise is important for every pet, even those with arthritis. It is very important to continue to get your dog out for a walk or a visit to the dog park every day. Simply remember to respect the decrease in his energy level and endurance.
4 Changes in interaction with family members
Your dog may interact differently with you or the family because he is unable to get around as effortlessly as he once could.
Your buddy may not be waiting at the bottom of the stairs to greet you when you come through the door. He may not follow you from room to room anymore or jump up next to you when you sit in your favourite chair.
Try to ensure that he continues to feel a part of things. Make the effort to go to him when he doesn’t or can’t come to you – make a point to find and greet him when you come home. Place a cosy dog bed on the floor in the rooms where you spend most of your time so that he is still comfortably at your side.
Slippery hard floors can be intimidating for a pet with mobility issues. Be kind to your dog and put down carpet runners and area rugs so he feels confident navigating around your home. For dogs with fuzzy paws, remember to clip excess hair growing between the toes to assist with grip.
5 Changes in personality
If your dog is uncomfortable much of the time, he’ll show some irritability or seem grumpy. If the pain persists or worsens, he might even show some aggression if bumped, jostled, or if it hurts when you pick him up or try to move him.
Dogs who have not shown aggression and suddenly do may very well be experiencing a painful condition.
Dogs may behave aggressively due to pain. They only do so when sore joints are handled, manipulated or when they’re being forced to move in a manner that is painful.
These situations requiring extra caution. So be careful when you’re lifting your dog and when there are children around. Children may accidentally bump into or fall on your dog who would defend his sore body with aggression.
6 House Soiling
A dog that has trouble getting up is more likely to start having accidents inside the house. They may no longer enjoy their walks as much or they may not be able to go in and out of their doggy door to enjoy time outside. Walking over a slippery floor, up or down stairs to go outside may be too painful and cause your dog to avoid going outside to toilet.
If you notice any of these subtle changes in your dog and can’t pinpoint the cause, talk to your vet.
Early identification is key. Don’t wait for the pain to become unbearable. With early detection, there are many more options available to help slow the progression of osteoarthritis and help manage the pain.”
Relieving Your Dog’s Discomfort
There are many natural substances and therapies that have been shown to be beneficial for pets with arthritis.
Chondroprotective agents is a must for pets with arthritis. We prefer a product that provides complete chondroprotective care. Sashas Blend meets the requirements of pharmaceutical grade, quality tested providing complete joint health. It is a safe long-term anti-inflammatory, provides pain relief and assists in repair of the joint capsule.
Always choose a high-quality product that is bio-available to your pet’s body and fit his symptoms. There are many joint support products and diets available, some better than others.
Many dogs needing arthritis discomfort relief are older animals and many times are prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help with pain relief. While NSAIDs offer short-term relief, long-term use should be approached with caution.
“Whenever any medication is used for long term therapy for ongoing conditions, such as diabetes, epilepsy, thyroid dysfunction or kidney disease, the veterinarian will need to do some ongoing testing.
Blood chemistry must be routinely checked whenever long-term drug therapy is administered in the treatment of diseases. Periodic blood tests should be evaluated when any NSAIDS are used in the treatment of osteoarthritic pain.”
~ J. Michael McFarland, DVM, DABVP, Director of the Sedation and Pain Management Team at Pfizer Animal Health’s Companion Animal Division
Sashas Blend is safe to take long-term for pain and inflammation. Additionally, it has no adverse indications, especially if your buddy is already on other medications.
Natural therapies that can be tremendously beneficial to arthritic pets include:
- Chiropractic care. Proper alignment prevents your dog’s body from shifting into unhealthy positions, compensating for an injured or painful area. Misalignment can create problems down the road.
- Massage is an excellent way to treat tissue inflammation. It assists in preventing secondary compensation in your dog’s body.
- Stretching your dog can reduce degeneration and prevent soft tissue injury.
- Acupuncture treatments can be very beneficial for some dogs with degenerative joint disease.
There are several types of physical and rehab therapy that can benefit arthritic dogs – e.g. gentle hydrotherapy or on an underwater treadmill. These can build and maintain muscle strength and endurance with minimum stress to painful joints. Other helpful rehab therapies will assist with coordination, flexibility and balance.
Unfortunately, arthritis is an ongoing, progressive disease. It’s important to routinely monitor your dog’s symptoms so that adjustments to their arthritis protocol can be made. This way you can meet the changing demands of your fur buddy’s body.
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