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Health & Wellness

6 signs that your dog might have arthritis

Did you know that arthritis symptoms get worse in cold weather?

Park days, which are usually full of fetch games, chasing frisbees and running with other pup friends, usually tire our dogs out. So it’s normal for your best friend to be a little sore after a big day of activity. 

But if your normally agile and active pup looks consistently uncomfortable or sore without a day at the park, you’ll want to ask your veterinarian about arthritis (also called osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease). 

What causes arthritis in dogs?

Unfortunately, the cause of arthritis (pain and inflammation of one or several joints) is sometimes unknown, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, says. But, joint trauma, injury to a knee ligament, elbow or hip dysplasia or any other joint disease can be behind this condition. 

According to Dr. McCullough, all dogs — regardless of breed, gender or age — are susceptible to arthritis, especially if they’re at a high risk of developing joint diseases. 

Signs of arthritis in dogs

Limping, a stiff gait, muscle loss and difficulty walking up or down stairs, standing up or getting into a comfortable resting position are all signs of arthritis in dogs. And symptoms often worsen in the early morning (or after long resting periods) or when the weather is cold or damp.  

Contact your veterinarian if you think your pup is struggling with arthritis. They’ll likely diagnose the condition through a physical examination and X-rays. Still, Dr. McCullough says that other tests, like joint fluid analysis, machine resonance imaging (MRIs) or computed tomography (CT) scans are sometimes necessary.

RELATED: A pet parent’s guide to dislocated hips

Arthritis treatment for dogs

There isn’t a cure for arthritis in dogs, but treatment is designed to stop the disease from worsening. And sometimes, multiple treatment methods at once might be necessary.

Depending on your dog’s arthritis severity, your veterinarian might recommend managing your pup’s healthy weight, medications to support cartilage or pain, anti-inflammatories, stem-cell therapy or surgery. 

Creating a supportive diet plan with your veterinarian is a way to maintain your pup’s healthy weight. “These diets typically contain omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin and antioxidants and are formulated to support lean muscle mass,” Dr. McCullough shares. 

Natural remedies for arthritis in dogs

Veterinarians might recommend more natural treatment plans, which usually include acupuncture, massage or physical therapy to treat arthritis in dogs, Dr. McCullough explains. 

Is arthritis in dogs preventable?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent arthritis in dogs. However, if your pup is susceptible to joint disease or obesity, having conversations with your veterinarian about their diet and ways to manage their weight might lower the chance of them getting arthritis, stall it from happening or lessen the severity of the symptoms. 

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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