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Did you know that one out of every five dogs will develop arthritis? I have five dogs and two have arthritis; they began showing signs at an early age. I blame their diet, but it could also be genetic. I don't know.
Over the years, I've learned that as our dogs age, they become more likely to develop arthritis. It's not easy to watch my babies limping, struggling to stand, or hear them cry out in pain. I experienced all of this with Sydney and there was a time that things got so bad that I wondered if we were going to be forced to make a tough choice. Since there is no known cure for arthritis, I often felt helpless. However, I've learned that there are ways to help ease the discomfort, such as finding the right joint supplement, putting your dog on a diet that doesn't promote inflammation, and finding an exercise regime that works for your dog.
Eventually, I know that I'll have to look into obtaining a dog ramp to make life easier on them, but we haven't gotten there yet. Ramps are a great solution for dogs to get from point A to B without having to endure the joint pain of climbing stairs, jumping in the car, or getting on the bed.
Arthritis in dogs can be difficult to detect, so here are some signs to look for in determining if your dog is suffering will benefit from extra support.
Not Interested in Activities
If your once spunky dog who loved to run around and play turns away such physical activity, arthritis could be the issue. If going up and down the stairs or jumping into the car turns into a chore, it could mean they are in pain. Naturally, dogs tend to slow down with age, but if the activity aversion seems too out of character, then take a trip to the vet to see if something else is going on with them.
With Sydney, she stopped jumping on the sofa. She would stand there like she was thinking about it, then turn around and lay on a dog bed. She also used to come upstairs to keep me company and she stopped doing that too. That told me two things. (1) It caused her pain to jump on the sofa and (2) I needed to invest in some quality dog beds that provided support for her joints.
A red flag sign of arthritis is if your dog is targeting a certain area on their body and continuously licking it. This could even lead to nibbling as well, which can cause sores and broken skin. Your dog may even baby that specific spot by keeping you from touching it. The reason for this act is because the licking and nibbling is a way for dogs to self-sooth their joint pain.
We saw this with Rodrigo. He has three areas on his front left leg that he licks, his elbow and his wrist. He still let's me touch the area, but when I notice that he's licking it, then I know that he's not feeling great and I reach for his CBD oil.
They Seem Irritated
When you are in pain and constantly uncomfortable, it is natural to feel irritable about the situation. If your happy and cheery dog becomes testier or is snapping more often, then arthritis could be to blame. Dogs cannot tell you what is going on with them, but they certainly can provide hints, such as becoming out of character to get their message across.
We saw this with both Sydney and Rodrigo.
If your leg hurts, then chances are you may limp to avoid putting pressure on that leg. Dogs do exactly the same thing. If your dog has pain in their leg, you may notice them limping around the house or holding the sore leg upward. In addition, if the arthritis is in their back, they may hunch over or hold their head at strange angles.
With Sydney, she has a different gait because her arthritis is in her ribs, hips, and rear legs. Despite the fact that she started showing signs of arthritis at a young age, now that she's nearly 10 years old, the arthritis hasn't advanced as much as we expected and I think that is due to the changes I made to her diet and care. In the beginning, Rodrigo would hold up his leg to avoid putting weight on it. Today, we only see a slight limp from time to time.
Caring for a Dog with Arthritis
Having two dogs with arthritis gave me an opportunity to learn how best to care for all of my dogs. Granted, all dogs are different so what works for Rodrigo and Sydney may not work for my other dogs, but I still feel prepared to quickly identify and manage arthritis pain when it comes to Scout, Zoey, and Apollo.
Raw Food Diet for Dogs
Switching my dogs to a raw food diet did wonders for their joints. When Rodrigo and Sydney were eating kibble, they developed joint issues around the two-year mark. I transitioned them to raw after they turned three years old and the limping vanished. I learned that kibble is high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation. We need to add Omega-3 fatty acids to offset that reaction. Today, my dogs eat a diet of raw food that includes anti-oxidants (fruits and vegetables), sardines, fermented fish stock, and other foods that support joint health.
I follow a model that I lovingly call FrankenBARF. I recently heard someone say 80/10/10 Plus, which sounds right too. I start with 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 10% organ meat. I then add additional food to better meet my dogs' nutritional requirements like Dr. Harvey's Paradigm (a green superfood pre-mix), sardines for Omega-3 fatty acids, additional heart for Vitamin B, and pasture-raised/certified organic raw eggs for more vitamins (I consider eggs to be a multi-vitamin).
I started feeding my dogs raw in 2013 and never looked back.
- Transitioning a Puppy to Raw Dog Food 
- Transitioning to Raw via a Hybrid Diet
- Transitioning Your Rescue from Kibble to a Raw Food Diet
Joint Supplements for Dogs
There are so many joint supplements on the market that it took me a long time to find the ones that work for my dogs. Today, I buy two supplements for my dogs. Rodrigo and Sydney get WINPRO Mobility, a chewable supplement with blood protein as an active ingredient. Blood protein helps racing horses recover from injuries and after seeing the positive changes, someone came up with the brilliant idea of creating a joint supplement. I started Sydney on this supplement and within a couple of days, we saw a huge difference in her mobility, activity, and energy level.
Sydney is also on Canine System Saver, a supplement I give to my dogs to help speed recovery from injuries. Several years ago, Sydney suffered from a partial cruciate tear. Healing was a slow process for a variety of reasons – she was also overweight and she kept reinjuring her leg. Canine System Saver got us to a place where she could move without pain and this allowed me to begin incorporating exercise to help her drop weight.
I give Cosequin DS Plus with MSM to Scout and Zoey. This is a supplement I stock up on when it goes on sale at Costco. It's also available on Chewy.com. If you're thinking that you buy it on Amazon, guess what – that one is fake. The company doesn't sell their supplements through Amazon and they've been working for years to have the listings removed. Originally, all of my dogs were on this supplement and then I received an opportunity to try WINPRO and decided to stick with that for my senior dogs (Rodrigo and Sydney).
Exercise for Dogs
Exercise can be tricky when you have a dog in pain. What makes it even more complicated is the fact that some dogs hide that they're in pain so you can be overworking them and not know it until their injury becomes worse. I have a friend in the dog training and nutrition world and she gave me the best advice that helped Sydney drop more than ten pounds. Instead of overworking Sydney one day and having her rest for four days, I took it slow and let her determine the pace. We live on five acres and our property has hills and it's a great workout if you walk the perimeter. So, every day after work, Sydney and I would walk the perimeter of our property. At first, we could only go a short distance and I let her tell me when she had enough – she would slow down, sit down, or turn around and head to the house. Eventually, she began going longer until we were walking the perimeter of five acres TWICE!
Keeping Sydney trim has made a big difference with her arthritis pain and mobility. She's playful, she runs, and I can tell that she enjoys being able to keep up with her siblings. And to make sure that all of my dogs stay trim, I also invested in a pet scale so that I can track their weight bi-monthly.
Alternative Medicine for Canine Arthritis
After Sydney reinjured her cruciate tear for the umpteenth time, I decided to take her in for a chiropractic adjustment and acupuncture. Initially, she went once a month. Today, she goes four times a year. She loves it! Well, she loves the acupuncture and she'll practically crawl into her vet's lap during treatment. She's not a fan of her chiropractic adjustments, but she's walking better afterward.
I also invested in a medical device for pain relief that I use with my dogs when they are showing signs of pain (limping, licking, etc.). I took Sydney in for treatment for her cruciate tear and arthritis and noticed a huge difference. It was explained to me that the therapy gets the cells to start repairing the area being treated. It does seem like some science fiction mumbo jumbo, but Sydney always seemed to walk and feel better after a treatment, so I invested in our own device.
Dog Beds and Ramps
We haven't reached a point where we've purchased a dog ramp, but it's something that I think we may purchase in the future to help our dogs get on the bed or get in the car. We have, however, invested in quality dog beds.
When it comes to dog beds that are best for joints, there are a lot of options in the pet store and not one was good enough for our dogs. Although they claim to be memory foam and supportive, they were wimpy and our dogs would sink straight to the hard floor, making them no better than an area rug. And these beds are expensive too!
A few years ago, Big Barker sent me one of their lovely dog beds to review and I immediately saw why they are a big deal. It's an investment and worth every penny. I loved it so much that when I had some extra cash, I purchased a second dog bed. They come with a 10-year warranty and the dogs love them. The good news is that brands that make beds are starting to realize that we want better products and the last time I was at Costco, I saw that their dog beds are very good quality and they cost less than $50.