Ask the Kent vet
PUBLISHED: 15:31 23 April 2016 | UPDATED: 15:31 23 April 2016
Andrew Wills, veterinary surgeon and owner at Toachim House Veterinary Surgery, on arthritis in dogs
Q: My dog, now nine, is getting a bit slow: is this normal?
Developing aches and pains and slowing down is to be expected when animals get older. However, if your dog is suffering from pain and stiffness due to arthritis, you can help him remain as comfortable and mobile for as long as possible.
Osteoarthritis degenerative joint disease is the most common form of arthritis in dogs and humans. It involves joint damage due to wear and tear or following joint injuries. Arthritis is particularly common in older and obese dogs, as well as large breeds. It can be difficult to spot a dog with arthritis; the disease tends to creep up slowly and many dogs learn to cope with soreness without showing any obvious pain.
Look out for a reduction in mobility, lameness in a particular limb, difficulty getting up or being particularly stiff following a rest. In some cases, a vet may be able to make a diagnosis of arthritis based on a thorough examination of a dog’s joints if they are markedly stiff, have a poor range of movement and are painful. X-rays are particularly useful as they can clearly show changes in bone contour and density in the bones.
Regular controlled exercise and weight control is paramount for dogs with arthritis. Short periods of exercise rather than one massive walk are recommended for arthritic dogs. Exercise should be appropriate to his current ability. Sadly there is no cure, but dogs, who suffer from the disease can still lead happy, active lives and there are a variety of options available.
Most dogs with arthritis require pain-relieving medicines to help reduce pain and swelling and they can make a huge difference to the pet’s wellbeing. Food supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate can also help, and in terms of complementary therapies, acupuncture hydrotherapy and physiotherapy can prove very helpful in some cases.
Cold laser therapy can also benefit chronic cases. We have had some very elderly patients with severe arthritis who have weekly cold laser sessions that have proved very beneficial.
Seek advice from your vet, who may offer a senior pet clinic which will involve a complete health check for your aging pet. www.thvs.co.uk