You can tell if your German Shepherd has arthritis by watching for a number of symptoms. Arthritis in dogs is a condition affecting the skeletal system causing the joints in the legs to swell up and become painful. The disease can severely limit the ability of the dog to perform certain movements.
WHAT IS DOG ARTHRITIS?
Dog arthritis is one of the most common canine medical conditions. Arthritis affects the skeletal system, with erosion of the cartilage, which cushions our bones, or inflammation of the lining of the cartilage-membrane, being key symptoms.
The chief causes of arthritis are genetics, previous injuries/accidents, infection and immune system problems.
When cartilage, which protects the bone and makes up the joint, is destroyed, it is called degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis. This is a progressive disease that affects the weight-bearing joints such as hips, spine, knees and elbows. About 25-30% of pets suffer with the same pain and debilitation as people. Normal stress on abnormal joints or abnormal stress on normal joint can result in cartilage destruction and changes in the bone.
WILL MY DOG GET ARTHRITIS?
NEWS ALERT: Veterinarians estimate that around 1 in 4 dogs will experience arthritis, generally as a condition of old age.
Technically, there are different kinds of dog arthritis, and the causes may be slightly different. But what’s most relevant is how arthritis feels to your dog. It doesn’t feel good: chronic and acute pain, which generally increase as the condition progresses, define all types and degrees of dog arthritis
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ARTHRITIS, AND JUST FEELING SORE?
Everyone knows the feeling of waking up with “creaky bones.” Though this is a conversational, not medical, term, it pretty well describes what arthritis is all about. As humans, we often experience this “creaky” feeling after a particularly hard bike-ride or other athletic work-out. Salespeople and wait-staff may experience the feeling after a long day or hard night standing and walking on concrete floors.
We may wake up with this feeling, with its accompanying stiffness and soreness, after sleeping in a sleeping bag, or on an especially unforgiving futon or hide-a-bed. The reason, in these cases, is that our skeletal weight has not been properly supported and cushioned, either during a period of extreme exertion, or during the relative immobility of sleep.
When we are young and healthy, and our joints are well-lubricated and padded, this discomfort will naturally go away, usually with no more than the help of a deep stretch, a massage, a warm bath, and rest. In the case of humans, a couple of aspirin or ibuprofen may also help to dissipate the pain, although neither of these human remedies is recommended for dogs.
Winston’s Pain Formula and Winston’s Joint System are all-natural products formulated by a naturopathic doctor for his cherished dog. Since 1992, these products have been trusted by dog-owners worldwide as a safe, effective treatment for joint issues, hip dysplasia, dog arthritis, and the pain, which dogs experience as the result.
As with humans, when dogs are young, and their joints are intact and healthy, they can generally rebound from trauma. With age, this capacity to recover diminishes. Many dogs will experience some form of dog arthritis as they age.
Arthritis is a degenerative condition, which worsens over time. There is no cure, although there are many possible treatments.
The bodies of many mammals, humans and dogs included, are made for endurance. Our muscles and skeletons literally are formed for long-duration running and climbing, because we are predators.
In many breeds of dogs, the skeleton and muscle-mass have evolved, or have been specifically bred, for hard work over long duration. Think of hard-working sled dogs, farm dogs and Shepherd breeds as an example.
Weight-bearing exercise tones our muscles and places stress on our bones. When we are young, this exertion makes us strong. Yet, with many thousands of repetitions, over the course of decades, the same mechanical process may contribute to arthritis.
For instance, when we lift weights, run or work out hard, we inflict microscopic “micro-tears” in our muscles. This is normal. Healthy, responsive muscle rebuilds itself quickly with a little nutritional support and rest. In fact, body-builders are keenly aware of this process, and are continuously balancing short-term damage self-inflicted on their muscles in order to build greater mass and strength. Likewise, walking, running and lifting weights actually stresses our bones. In fact, some stress is good for bone-density. A universally accepted treatment for osteoporosis is controlled, weight-bearing exercise.
All of the above applies to dogs as well as humans. What makes us tough and resilient when we are young can cause pain as the years pass.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY DOG HAS ARTHRITIS?
Look for behavioral changes. In the beginning, these changes will be subtle. If you ignore them, the symptoms will be unmistakable. If left undiagnosed and untreated, dog arthritis can do permanent damage to your dog’s joints and bones, to the degree that even an easy-going walk around the block may no longer be possible.
Look for these signs of dog arthritis in your pet:
- Slowing down. If your dog can’t keep up on regular walks, the reason may be that the dog is experiencing discomfort, meaning chronic, low-level pain. Untreated dog arthritis inflammation gets worse with exertion. Snapping, yelping, irritability, mood-changes, biting. These often indicate acute, sharp pain. The sudden spike of acute pain is often what causes a loyal canine companion to snap at strangers—or even a trusted, familiar human friend.
- Sleeping more and sleeping longer. Unlike cats, which tend to be more naturally nocturnal, dogs love the sunlight and are genetically programmed to be active during the day. If a dog sleeps the day away and is active at night, the reason may be the pain of dog arthritis.
- Your dog lowers its rear end, and holds its hind legs closer together. This may be one of the more subtle signs of dog arthritis in its early stages. If your dog has arthritis in its rear hips or knees, the animal will try to relieve pain and pressure by shifting its weight forward, to its front end, while standing. You may also observe a downward, “slumped” posture, where the rear end seems lowered—this is commonly seen in German Shepherds.
- Your dog stands with its front legs more wide-apart than usual. This posture may be part of the same sign as the above. The dog is experiencing joint pain, and attempting to re-distribute its weight. This stance may be subtle at first, with the dog’s elbows pushed out instead of directly beneath its body.
- “Bunny Hopping”. This means that the dog presses its back legs together when it runs or trots, attempting to use its two hind legs as one. This is often a telltale sign in younger dogs of hip dysplasia, which often accompanies dog arthritis. If you observe even slight bunny-hopping, call your vet immediately.
- Licking a painful joint. Obsessive licking is an animal’s attempt to soothe nerve-distress. If you’re not sure if your dog’s licking is simply normal grooming, take a close look at the color of your dog’s fur around its joints. A “bleached” or lightened appearance of the fur around a joint suggests that the dog is licking to ease pain (the enzymes in the animal’s saliva actually bleach the dog’s hair).
- Difficulty getting up. When your dog struggles to its feet, and has trouble lifting its own weight securely, it’s usually a sign of stiffness which signals dog arthritis. Also watch the dog when it does stand up. Shaking of a limb, or wobbly posture, may signal weakness or pain in a hip or leg.
- Doesn’t want to walk or play. Humans who share their lives with healthy, active dogs don’t even dare to utter the word “walk” (we spell it out, “W-A-L-K”) unless we’re ready to clip on the leash and head for the door. Dogs love to walk and run. It is in their nature as a species, and over many centuries of co-habitation, they have learned to share this love with us as their humans. A dog which does not literally jump for joy at the chance to walk with its human is not a happy, healthy, normal dog.
- Avoids stairs, jumping on the couch, jumping on the bed, jumping in the car. While initially you may appreciate the idea of less dog-hair on your couch or bed, an unwillingness to jump – requiring a forceful muscular propulsion using the rear legs and hips—signals trouble, most likely dog arthritis, hip dysplasia, or both.
- Limping. This is a clear indicator of dog arthritis, hip dysplasia, or both. You may also observe an overall tension in the dog’s body, as well as vocalizing (whining, whimpering, crying!). Your dog may also seem to favor one side, keeping its weight off the “bad” leg or hip.
- Muscle loss (Muscle Atrophy). This is an effect of dog arthritis, which develops over time. In a healthy animal, both sides of the body are evenly matched in terms of size, bulk, shape and muscular development. A disorder such as dog arthritis may cause your dog to constantly take its weight off a painful limb. Over time, this may cause the muscles of that leg, or the leg on the side of an affected hip, to shrink from lack of use.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MY PET WITH DOG ARTHRITIS?
- Visit your vet. While your own observations and intuitions about your pet are invaluable, an examination by a licensed professional is the only way to know for sure whether your pet is suffering with dog arthritis. Consult with your veterinarian about Winston’s Pain Formula and Winston’s Joint System. Glucosamine, NSAIDs and other more conventional treatments have a definite downside.
- Remove obstacles from your pet’s path to recovery. Provide a ramp to the front door, so your dog doesn’t have to climb steps when in pain. Provide a doggie-ramp to your bed and couch so your pet can snuggle with the family.
- Don’t make your dog sleep on a hard surface. Lack of support results in soreness and stiffness. Provide a padded bed, possible a gel-filled pad and low-level heating element for soothing, relaxing warmth as your pet heals.
There are genetic factors, which also contribute to arthritis, but this process is primarily related to the aging process. Cell-turnover in both muscle-fiber and bone slows down with age, and recovery is less consistent. Injuries, such as a broken bone, and infections also may contribute to conditions associated with aging, including arthritis.
Since 1990, Winston’s Joint System and Winston’s Pain Formula have helped heal over twenty thousand dogs from all over the world. Our staff specializes in hip dysplasia, arthritis and all joint, pain and mobility issues.
There is an excellent chance we can help your dog, so please contact us at: www.dogshealth.com or call our toll free number at 888-901-5557.
Does Your Dog Have Trouble:
- Getting up?