Aging is a part of any canine life, but sometimes with those precious golden years there also comes the challenge of coping with arthritis.
This condition, which is often referred to as degenerative joint disease, subjects a dog to pain and inflammation of the joints. Just like in humans, arthritis is defined as “the breaking down of smooth cartilage that protects the bones that make up a joint” (source). Once that healthy cartilage disappears or diminishes, a joint becomes aggravated, inflamed and generally painful from the constant friction of bone rubbing against bone.
Sometimes there are additional factors at play besides genetics that can cause arthritis to present in canines. These factors can include (but aren’t limited to) broken bones, dislocation, torn ligaments or preexisting medical conditions.
For a dog suffering from arthritis their mobility can be greatly limited. Sitting and even walking can become uncomfortable, which as you can imagine is no fun at all. However, there are a few things a pet parent can do to make a dog’s life with arthritis more comfortable.
Dogs who suffer from arthritis will find movement a challenge, but they will still need to exercise in order to keep fit and keep their joints functioning. Two highly recommended low-impact therapies are hydrotherapy (aka supervised swimming) and canine massage, as both activities allow a dog to stretch, tone muscle and limit the risk of falling.
Depending upon the case, you may also consider short, slow walks. Just be sure to keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t topple over.
Researchers have found that some human foods possess vitamins and minerals that can help soothe arthritis symptoms, such as celery, papaya and mango. Some experts believe that excessive grains in a diet can aggravate the condition, so you may want to consider removing such elements from your dog’s diet.
Eating smart and avoiding excess weight will also help alleviate some joint stress for dogs, as the more pounds they have to carry, the harder it may be to walk.
Some cases of canine arthritis are so severe they may require medication and supplements from a certified vet to alleviate their symptoms.
PREVENTION IS THE BEST MEDICINE
Of course, nobody can predict what conditions a senior dog may develop, but encouraging a healthy, active lifestyle can help to prevent the risk of developing arthritis; although avoiding this condition entirely cannot be guaranteed.
Make sure your dog exercises regularly to keep excess weight off and be mindful of their diet, especially as they age. Sometimes a dog’s food will need to be changed as they get older — and keep track of how many and what kind of treats you are spoiling them with.
(Note: Be sure to consult with your veterinarian when addressing arthritis in your dog.)
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