Arthritis is a progressive and degenerative condition; it causes a lot of pain and inhibits mobility. Studies have shown that canine arthritis can affect as many as one in five adult dogs. It is caused by inflammation in one or more joints that cause stiffness and pain. This condition worsens with age. There are many kinds of arthritis, each with different causes, like daily wear and tear, infections and other underlying diseases. It is common in both, human beings and dogs. Historically, Arthritis was linked to wear and tear only, but recent research shows that it is the result of chronic, low-grade inflammation. It is not believed to be an old-age condition anymore. We are now seeing it in dogs as early as 7-8 months.
Inside a dog's joints, bone surfaces are covered with a thin layer of very smooth cartilage, lubricated with a small amount of joint fluid that allows the two surfaces to glide freely over one another with minimum friction. In dogs with arthritis, the cartilage within the bone joints is damaged and becomes less smooth. This causes pain and further damage to the cartilage.
Most pet parents see the first signs of Arthritis 2-3 years after the onset of the disease. If you want to catch it early, it's important to watch your dog for the first signs of pain. A few early signs of pain include a change in the way a dog sits or walks, excessive stretching, frequent grooming of certain body parts, excessive paw licking, and touch sensitivity. ANY signs that deviate from normal may be a sign of pain or discomfort.
Watching for a change in gait is a matter of careful observation and these subtle signs can often be misinterpreted or totally missed because most puppies have a compromised gait and it is tough to understand what is considered normal. It is important to watch your dog for minor changes and take suitable action. When you feel that something is "off" with your dog's walk or if your dog’s hip is swaying more than usual, even if you can't quite put a finger on it, it's time to see the doctor, insist on an x-ray, even if it is to put your mind at rest.
A dog who's limping, trembling, moving slowly, or struggling to get up after sleeping, is likely to be experiencing considerable pain. If there is a change in the way your dog is walking or a change in appetite, it could be a sign of discomfort. If your dogs hyperactive suddenly turns up a notch or engages in destructive behaviour, shows increased "need" to chew things and shred things, you need to investigate PAIN as a possible cause of this sudden shift. If your dog rests during the day but is not "sleeping", you need to pay attention. Pain is usually the cause of humans not being able to sleep, too. If your amiable and friendly dog suddenly turns withdrawn, rests during walks, and refuses to move, you should seek help without further delay. Pain in the hips/joints can also cause dogs difficulty in being able to squat down to poop. The position is quite painful and requires a lot of support from surrounding muscles to hold the position. Dogs might be unable to hold the position long enough to finish their business and will do it in installments. Pain can cause otherwise friendly dogs to be wary of other dogs who tend to be jumpy and playful, younger dogs or puppies as these dogs will end up hurting them if they land on a painful spot. So they could growl more, asking dogs to stay away. Dogs experience a fair bit of pain every time they jump on and off furniture, their reluctance to do this will increase as the pain gets worse. At any of these stages, it is recommended that you get an X-ray done right away. Early diagnosis can help manage the disease better!
Our tip for you is to watch and observe your dog from a young age so that you can spot any change in posture, changes in grooming habits or sensitivity to touch that wasn't there before! Paying attention to these signs at early stages will help you investigate further and stop it from getting worse. As the weather gets colder, stiffness will increase and some of these signs might become more evident.