Did you know that 1 in 5 adult dogs in the U.S. has arthritis and that it is one of the most common causes of chronic pain that veterinarians treat? The condition in dogs becomes evident as they age, but proper care and treatment can help control your “best friend’s” pain and maintain her quality of life.

TELLTALE SIGNS OF ARTHRITIS

Here are the key signs to look for:

• Your dog used to drag you down the street on walks; now he lags behind.

• She appears to have difficulty sitting or standing.

• He doesn’t bounce up when awakened or at feedings.

• She is less interested in playing.

• He is hesitant to jump onto furniture or a bed, or climb stairs.

• She limps, or favors a limb.

• He expresses pain by whimpering when his legs are touched.

• She sleeps more than she used to.

• His behavior has changed.

CARING FOR YOUR DOG

A dog with arthritis requires extra care. A pet bed made from orthopaedic foam offers comfort; raised food and water bowls require less bending; and taking walks on softer surfaces, like grass, reduces joint impact. It’s also important that your pet maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise, as excess pounds increase pressure on joints.

AVAILABLE TREATMENTS

Under no circumstances should you give your dog “people” medication – even common, over-the-counter drugs like aspirin can be toxic. Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin and a veterinarian-prescribed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) may help decrease pain, but always consult your veterinarian before administering.

PAYING FOR TREATMENT

Pet health insurance can ease the burden of paying out of pocket for vet bills. But be sure to carefully check the specifics of a policy before you sign up for coverage. Some pet health insurance companies have exclusions for pre-existing conditions such as arthritis. If you don’t have pet insurance, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan with your vet.