One of the most common complaints as our dogs age is arthritis. Owners are often left feeling very upset and worried about what is yet to come. However, dogs often live long, happy and otherwise healthy lives with the condition.
Arthritis can be seen when the easy run becomes a stiff walk; the jump to a favorite chair is no longer possible; lying down is accompanied by a deep groan. As our dogs age, things that were once second nature become an effort.
Arthritis comes on slowly and gradually gets worse – this is a key factor.
If your dog has suddenly become stiff or lame, then it is more likely to be an injury and not arthritis.
Contributing Factors of Osteoarthritis
Age is a major factor, due to wear and tear to the cartilage and joint over the dog’s life .
Breed disposition. Some breeds are prone to congenital orthopaedic conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia or osteochondritis dessicans (OCD). These conditions cause uneven wear to the joint which cause early arthritic changes.
Obesity is another major cause. It is essential to keep your dog within a healthy weight range. The weight of a dog can cause arthritis but it will also exacerbate the condition even if it is not the cause, as the joints have to carry the extra weight.
Dogs which have an increased level of activity can be more at risk of developing osteoarthritis. This doesn’t mean don’t exercise your dog. On the contrary – exercise is good for maintaining healthy bones and joints as well as keeping a healthy weight. It just means dogs who have a high level of activity are more susceptible to arthritis. A high level of activity would include working dogs which are active for several hours every day or sporting dogs which train excessively. It is therefore important to remember to not over train or work dogs who have demanding jobs as this will shorten their career.
Injuries or surgery to a joint can cause osteoarthritis to occur, therefore it is always worth discussing this with your vet and then taking early preventative treatment if your dog has an injury or requires surgery to a joint.
What can I do to help my dog?
Unfortunately there is no cure. However, there are many options available to help support the condition and to make your dog more comfortable and have a better quality of life.
Firstly, look at making changes to the dog’s day to day life.
Around the house you can provide well-padded bedding away from cold or damp drafts – this will also help prevent the development of pressure-point calluses
Nonskid flooring wherever surfaces are slippery is also very helpful.
Stop your dog jumping on and off furniture and beds or provide them with Carpeted or padded steps to get on and off so that they don’t jar their joints as they get down
Use a ramp in the car for large dogs or lift smaller dogs in and out
Outside, your dog may find a gently sloped ramp easier to negotiate than steps.
Canine Myotherapy works wonders!
You may wonder why as you will be thinking surely massage is for muscles not bones. Well a dog cannot move a joint without contracting muscles.
When a joint becomes arthritic the muscles around that joint have to work overtime to stabilise the joint. This in itself causes issues as the joint then becomes less mobile and exacerbates the condition.
As your dog becomes stiff this creates an adaptive change, adaptive change creates chronic pain, chronic pain culminates in postural change.
Myotherapy works as massage stimulates blood flow to atrophying muscles and we treat the body as a whole so not only will I treat the affected limb but I’ll also treat all the compensatory issues which are likely to be causing your dog much pain and discomfort. I use a variety of techniques that will stimulate muscle tone and realign muscle fibres and use passive movement to help elongate the muscles which have shortened as a result of the lack of full range of motion of the joint.
Massage is also a natural form of pain relief as it deals directly with the issues and also releases feel good endorphins. This improves your dog’s zest for life. So combined with the increased mobility achieved with massage your dog becomes happier and more active. And that’s got to make you feel better too!