Most experts agree that pets are living longer than they ever have before. This happy news is likely a result of improved veterinary care and dietary habits. In fact, 50 percent of the approximately 80 million dogs in this country are older than the age of 7 — that is roughly 40 million dogs that are considered senior or geriatric dogs in the United States.
With this pet population living longer, geriatric dogs, along with their owners and veterinarians, are faced with a whole new set of age-related conditions. As dogs age they are faced with similar issues that humans face, such as muscle loss, arthritis and orthopedic issues or injuries. If your dog is starting to avoid active playing or running or if he has trouble with daily activities such as jumping up on a favorite chair or into the family car, he may have age-related illnesses such as arthritis.
With more than 25 years of experience, renowned veterinarian Dr. Albert Ahn, Veterinary Consultant with MYOS Pets, has tips on how to keep our aging dogs healthy.
“The sooner you notice potentially negative changes, the sooner you can take action to provide proper care,” Ahn said. “Being proactive in this way could make a huge difference when it comes to combating arthritis and reducing any associated suffering.”
Q. How common is arthritis in senior dogs?
A. About 60 percent of all dogs over the age of seven end up suffering from arthritis (although it can appear at any age), so it is a very common issue. Larger dog breeds and obese dogs are especially at risk of developing it.
Q. What are the common signs of arthritis?
A. Common signs to look out for include the following: difficulty getting up, moving around, and climbing stairs, disinterest in walking or playing, increased lethargy, decreased “pep,” dwindling muscle mass, weight gain (often a result of becoming more sedentary due to pain), limping, mood issues and yelping when held or touched.
Q. How can dog owners help prevent arthritis?
A. Dog owners can help prevent arthritis in their dogs by feeding them a nutritionally complete diet, ensuring they are getting enough exercise (particularly low-impact exercise that doesn’t put strain on the joints), using supplements that promote joint and muscle health and keeping up to date with vet checkups.
Q. Does diet factor into the prevention and treatment of arthritis?
A. Diet certainly does play a role. Obese dogs are at higher risk for arthritis since the joints are constantly stressed by the excess weight. Therefore, starting a dog on a nutritionally-smart diet from an early age can be a solid tool for prevention. For the same reason, a diet focused on weight loss is also helpful for treatment — less strain from weight will lead to less pain and inflammation of the joints, which can help halt arthritic progression.
Q. Once your dog has arthritis is there anything that can be done to ease their discomfort?
A. Depending on the severity of the arthritis, surgery might be recommended by a veterinarian. However, it’s more common to be given a treatment plan that will help minimize the pain, reduce inflammation and rebuild the muscle. Supplements will be extremely beneficial here. Anti-inflammatory ones such as CBD oil, fish oil, glucosamine and even curcumin can help alleviate pain. A natural supplement such as Fortetropin can be used to build the muscle back up and reduce any further atrophy from occurring, thus supporting the joints and ligaments. Muscle health should always be prioritized throughout the treatment protocol as it is needed for mobility and vitality. Diet, hydrotherapy and acupuncture can also be great additions.