Arthritis, meaning inflammation in the joints, affects one in five dogs. For dogs over the age of seven, it's more than one in two -- a full 65% chance of them are diagnosed with arthritis. And for large breeds, that percentage goes even higher. According to Dr. Karen Becker:
20 percent of dogs over a year of age, or 1 in 5 canine companions, will develop degenerative joint disease. And certain large breeds — including Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands and St. Bernards — have a 70 to 80 percent chance of developing the disease. That’s 4 out of every 5 dogs of those breeds.
But don't despair! Because arthritis symptoms are in most cases treatable, noticing the signs early on is a crucial step towards managing symptoms and keeping your dog as healthy and happy as possible.
Pain is of course the major symptom in arthritis and because dogs don’t have the ability to speak, they are unable to communicate directly to us that they are in pain. If your dog is battling pain, he could be:
- Reluctant to walk
- Sensitive to touch and resists being picked up
- More vocal than usual (crying, yelping, etc..)
- Panting, or other changes in breathing patterns
- Moving slower than usual, or awkwardly
- Excessive grooming
- More quiet and reserved than usual
In terms of arthritis, be especially on the lookout for groaning or whining when moving or being handled.
Because pain is a symptom of an array of different health problems, if your dog displays any of these behaviors, you should take them to the vet to rule out anything serious. There are plenty of treatment options available for managing pain, and talking to your vet about which, if any, options they recommend for your dog is absolutely the right thing to do in this situation.
Forgetting house training
If your dog has suddenly forgotten his house training, it may mean he has arthritis. Because arthritis is painful, your dog may be experiencing difficulties getting up and about.
While it is frustrating to take such a large leap backward. Your dog is likely embarrassed about this as it is, and scolding him for it does no good.
Some alternative ways of handling the situation are taking your dog for regular potty breaks, keeping a watchful eye on him to prevent accidents, and in extreme cases placing potty pads on the floor for easy cleanup.
Agitation and irritability
When suffering from pain, dogs, much like humans, are more likely to act grumpy. Of course everyone has the occasional bad day, but if you’ve noticed that your dog is often in a bad mood, lacking in patience, or easily frustrated, it may mean he is battling pain caused by arthritis. These behaviors are understandable circumstantially, so if you have a dog with arthritis, it’s important that you are patient with your dog.
Lack of appetite or weight loss
If your dog isn’t eating as much as he used to, it may mean that he has an underlying medical condition such as arthritis. When in pain dogs often don’t feel like eating.
An important first step to solving the problem is to rule out any other problems that could be causing your dog to eat less. You could try buying a different brand of food, feeding your dog at consistent times throughout the day or more frequently replacing the old food with fresh food.
If your dog is still lacking in appetite or completely refusing food after 1-2 days, it can mean that there is a serious health issue and it is crucial that you take him to the vet immediately.
Fortunately, there is an array of treatment options available to help manage pain. In the early stages, giving your dog a glucosamine-type supplement as well as taking them for regular walks can help immensely. In more severe cases, a veterinarian can prescribe medication to reduce pain.
Keeping a close eye on them as they get older is beneficial in the end.