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Does your older dog seem stiff lately? The good news is that advances in the care of our pets are allowing them to lead longer lives. Unfortunately, older pets often suffer from some form of degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis. There are many different types of canine arthritis, but let’s look at the most common: canine degenerative arthritis.

As dogs age, the cartilage in the joints starts to thin. Cartilage cells die, releasing enzymes that cause inflammation of the joint capsule, and extra bony growths, called osteophytes, can develop. As this progresses, the normal joint space narrows, causing the bone to deteriorate. The dog’s joints cease to function normally, pain and lameness lead to limb disuse and inactivity, and this can result in muscle atrophy.

Your dog may not vocalize pain, but a dog who is stiff, requires assistance, and only goes outside to go to the bathroom is probably in pain. If you notice a decrease in your dog’s normal activity level, weakness, reluctance to move, or if your dog seems stiff or lame, get an accurate diagnosis from your vet. Once you have a diagnosis, there are several effective strategies to employ.

  • At home, offer comfort and accessibility. Bedding should be well-padded and away from cold or damp areas. Nonskid flooring is helpful, and if your dog is allowed on the furniture, it’s good to provide carpeted or padded steps or a ramp and use a ramp to help your dog get outside. Help your dog maintain a healthy body weight by offering high-quality food. Dogs and cats should never be given Advil. Consult your veterinarian prior to giving your pet any type of medication that is not prescribed specifically for its ailment.
  • Various therapies may prove helpful. One promising treatment is therapeutic laser therapy, which stimulates blood flow to the tissues and can significantly improve arthritic conditions. Maintaining regular exercise is important, so consider swimming if your dog is having trouble with weight-bearing exercises.
  • Your vet may prescribe supplements or medications. Your vet can offer you advice on joint supplements; there are many on the market. When it comes to pharmaceuticals, adequate injections might be recommended to help repair tissue. Analgesics and steroids can also be helpful and, in some cases, veterinary Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are the most effective prescribed medications for treating pain and inflammation. Your veterinarian can discuss if they think the use of NSAIDs is appropriate for your pet and its side effects. NSAIDs can be harmful if your pet has liver or kidney disease.

At Reed Animal Hospital, we treat your pets as if they were our own. Our goal is to help you and your pet enjoy a healthy, fulfilling life together, so our extraordinary team offers a wide range of services. We’ve got veterinarians, technicians, assistants, and receptionists, all prepared to help you and your pet, and we even offer referrals to specialty surgeons, many of whom will travel to our office to consult with your pet. For more information or to make an appointment, call us in Campbell at 408-369-1788, or in Saratoga at 408-647-2906, or contact us through our website.