How can arthritis be diagnosed?
Your vet may diagnose arthritis based on a history of symptoms and is likely to do a physical examination to test for stiffness, pain and/or swelling of the joint. Where arthritis is suspected in younger dogs, or if there’s a possibility of joint surgery that could be helpful, X-rays or other scans may be done to establish the underlying cause.
How can it be treated?
There is no cure for arthritis, but the pain can often be managed with anti-inflammatories and/or painkillers. Relieving pain improves mobility which helps to maintain supporting muscle mass. Weight control is vital in managing symptoms and supplements such as YuMove are said to reduce stiffness, promote better joint health and increase mobility. But dogs with arthritis are likely to need medication; your vet will be able to advise on this. Massage, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy may also help. In some cases, surgery may be advised but it’s unlikely that surgery will restore perfect joint function for life. New therapies, such as stem cell therapy, are also becoming more available for dogs and some seem to yield promising results.
How can I manage my dog’s arthritis?
A healthy diet, maintaining an optimum weight and the right amount of exercise will also improve symptoms. Discuss with your vet what exercise regime is best for your dog but - in general - little and often is likely to be better than very long walks. If your pet is limping on the way back, they’ve probably overdone it. Rest your pet on days they are lame or stiff.
Providing a soft, comfortable bed will help to take pressure off of your dog’s joints when they are resting. Ramps up any stairs they need to climb or to help them into the car will also benefit your dog if they are suffering from arthritis.
Can arthritis be prevented?
Age-related arthritis can’t be prevented, but you can certainly do a number of things to help reduce the risk and delay the onset and severity of symptoms. As detailed above, this includes controlling weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise.
The risk of hip dysplasia, which can cause arthritis and is particularly prevalent in certain breeds, can be reduced by good breeding practices including the hip scoring of potential parents.
What is the prognosis for dogs with arthritis?
This will vary greatly between cases. But with careful management, it’s possible for affected dogs to have a good quality of life. However, owners will need to be mindful that certain activities, such as very long walks or agility training, may not be possible