Canine Arthritis and Your Boston Terrier
What is Arthritis?
Canine Arthritis, also known as canine osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, occurs from wear and tear on a joint, especially as the dog ages.
It is characterized by the loss of the smooth cartilage that covers and protects the end of the bones in a movable joint.
The cartilage has no nerves so when it touches the cartilage attached to another bone, there is no pain. But, when the cartilage wears away, the bone is exposed. Since the bone DOES have nerves, pain and inflammation result when the two bones in a joint touch.
Canine arthritis can occur in any joint, but it is most often found in the hip, and can lead to a permanent loss of function. While many cases occur in older dogs, canine arthritis can affect animals of any age. Overweight dogs are also likely candidates, but dogs of all sizes can be affected.
Although large breed dogs tend to be more prone to canine arthritis, it can develop in all purebreds and mixed breeds.
Arthritis affects one in every five adult dogs in the U.S. and is one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat.*
Signs that your dog may have arthritis include:
- Weight gain
- Difficulty sitting or standing
- Favoring a limb
- Seeming to have stiff or sore joints
- Being hesitant to jump, run or climb stairs
- Being less alert
- Decreased activity or less interest in play
- Attitude or behavior change
- Sleeping more than usual
If your dog has any of these symptoms for two weeks or more, take him to your veterinarian for an arthritis evaluation. This will include a physical exam and possibly X-rays.
Treatment for canine arthritis is similar to treatment of human osteoarthritis. Possible treatments include:
- Diet modification and exercise to maintain proper weight.
- Working with your veterinarian to find a drug treatment to relieve pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are the most common form of pharmaceutical treatment for arthritis in dogs. Your veterinarian may prescribe both an NSAID and an over-the-counter treatment that together may help decrease pain and disease progression.
- You can also use over-the-counter pet treatments with your dog, such as food or joint care supplements that contain either glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate or Omega fatty acids. These have been shown to help relieve the symptoms of canine arthritis. Start by researching products and reviewing the product labels.
- Drug therapy is most effective when combined with weight management and exercise. Dogs should have non-strenuous exercise, such as walking or swimming, a regular basis. Avoid strenuous, high-impact activities.
BT Health Questions?
Have a question about your Boston's health? Visit our BT Health forum
Check with your veterinarian before giving any human medication to your dog. Some medicines, especially acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can be toxic to dogs. And, safe dosage varies greatly depending on the size of your dog.
Prevention/Mitigation of Canine Arthritis:
- Weight management - Keep your dog at his recommended weight. Not only will this reduce the stress on his joints, but it will help any surgical or medical procedures work better.
- Exercise - You want to restrict the amount of exercise to avoid pain and wear, but still maintain enough movement to increase or maintain muscle strength. Younger, active dogs will need to be restricted to walks on a leash. Swimming is another excellent way for dogs to maintain muscle mass, while minimizing stress on the joints. Older dogs should also participate in these activities, although to a lesser extent. Any type of jumping is bad for dogs with arthritis. Daily exercise is the most beneficial - exercising only on weekends can do more harm than good.
- Provide Warmth and A Comfortable Sleeping Place - Arthritis tends to worsen in cold, damp weather. A pet sweater will help keep your dog's joints warmer. Consider keeping your home a bit warmer during the cold months, too.
Also, give your dog a firm, orthopedic foam bed. Beds that have dome-shaped, orthopedic foam distribute weight evenly and reduce the pressure on joints. Plus, they're easier to get out of! Put your dog's bed in a warm spot away from drafts - next to a heat register is a great spot!
- Massage and Physical Therapy - A soothing massage of the affected area may help relieve soreness and stiffness. Remember, your dog is in pain, so start slow and build trust. You can start by petting the area, then work up to gently kneading the muscles around the joint with your fingertips using a small, circular motion. Gradually, you can work your way out to the surrounding muscles. Moist heat is also beneficial, using a water bottle or a warm, soaked towel. Your veterinarian can give instructions on how to help relax your dog's stiff muscles and promote a good range of motion in the joints.
- Make Daily Activities Less Painful - Going up and down stairs can be difficult for arthritic dogs, making trips to go out and urinate or defecate uncomfortable. You might consider building or buying a
ramp to make it easier for your dog to go outside.
- Agents To Promote Healthy Cartilage - Glucosamine and chondroitin have recently become widely used in treating both humans and animals for osteoarthritis. These products have become some of the most popular for treating arthritis today.
Return from Canine Arthritis to Boston Terrier Health Problems
If your dog has arthritis, please work closely with your veterinarian to select the treatment program that best fits your Boston. The information provided here is for informational purposes and is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.
* Source - The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org)
Photo courtesy of sappymoosetree