Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease where pain and stiffness develop as a result of wear and tear to the joints. Any joint can be affected by arthritis. In the normal joint, the bone surfaces, which meet and rub together, are covered by a thin layer of cartilage – an elastic substance acting as a self-repairing, shock absorbing layer.

The moving parts of the joint are encased within a capsule filled with synovial fluid, which acts as lubricant. Wear and tear, which occurs throughout life, may reach a stage where areas of the cartilage become worn, exposing the underlying bone and leading to pain and/or impaired movement.

Your dog’s hips, knees and elbows are the most susceptible joints to contracting arthritis.

In some individuals and in certain breeds, abnormal wear can start quite early in life. This may be the result of an injury or an inherited condition, such as hip dysplasia. Large breeds are more likely to have hip dysplasia while small dogs have problems with their knees and elbows such as torn cruciate ligaments. The spine can also be affected with arthritis.

Although we tend to think of arthritis as age-related, there are other factors that cause or aggravate this condition. Besides injury or heredity, weight – too much of it – is the most common factor found in dogs suffering from arthritis. The structure of some breeds lends itself to the development of arthritis. Short legged, long backed dogs like Dachshunds, Yorkshire Terriers, Jack Russells, Pekinese and Basset Hounds are at risk of slipped discs which can also become arthritic. Breeds that experience rapid growth often have weakened cruciate ligaments.

The following are common characteristics in the development of arthritis:

  • Age
  • Heredity
  • Injury
  • Early, rapid growth and weight gain
  • Overweight dogs

Arthritis in dogs is usually seen in stiff movements particularly when getting up from lying down. A dog’s legs will literally be more rigid, movement will be slower and the dog may limp for the first few steps. These symptoms are also present after running or playing and in cold weather. As the arthritis progresses, a dog may grunt or whine in pain when getting to his feet and will resist rolling onto his back or exercising in any way. The dog may not want to be touched in the areas that are painful. In young dogs, particularly those afflicted with hip dysplasia, there may be no symptoms except that the dog may appear clumsy due to the instability of the hip. In the case of spinal arthritis, the dog may suffer incontinence, unsteadiness on the legs, back or neck pain and in the worst case, lose the ability to move limbs.

To prevent arthritis from developing in your dog, a good diet and maintaining a healthy weight are paramount. Giving your pet Vibrant Pets supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin promotes strong bone growth and maintains joint elasticity. As your dog ages, Vibrant Pets formulas lessen the effects of arthritis and supports faster recovery from injury. As with all joint issues, rest and ice will reduce swelling and see your vet if symptoms persist.