Sudden Arthritis Symptoms in Dogs

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Woman laying on floor beside her dog.
Woman laying on floor beside her dog. (Image: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Dogs can develop arthritis gradually as a result of aging, or they can exhibit arthritislike symptoms suddenly, usually due to injury. While there is no cure for arthritis, there are ways to manage the condition and make your dog more comfortable. As some serious medical conditions mimic the symptoms of arthritis, it’s always best to check with your vet for a formal diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.

Arthritis Symptoms

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, which is typically seen in older dogs. Large and giant breeds are more susceptible to the condition because of their size and weight. Obese dogs are more prone to arthritis because of the excess strain on joints. Primary symptoms include a slowness to movement, stiffness when standing and a reluctance to run, climb and jump onto elevated surfaces.

Arthritis Diagnosis

Your vet likely will perform an orthopedic exam manipulating your dog's limbs to assess mobility, stiffness and potential ligament or bone injuries. He’ll also watch your dog walk on different surfaces and ask you for information about his physical behaviors. X-rays and ultrasounds may be used in the diagnostic process as well.

Sudden Onset Arthritis

If your dog exhibits arthritislike symptoms suddenly, he could have an injury, such as an anterior cruciate ligament tear, a soft tissue injury, broken bone or dislocated hip. These injuries require immediate veterinary treatment to prevent further damage. Sudden lethargy, lameness and difficulty with movement are also signs of numerous other medical conditions, including neurological problems, and should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Arthritis Prevention

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight may help to reduce the severity of arthritis. Regular exercise and a well-balanced diet can keep your dog in good overall health. Reduce the pressure on knees, hips and shoulders by limiting stair climbing, especially in older dogs or breeds prone to arthritis. Your vet may recommend joint supplements containing chondroitin, glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids to lubricate arthritic joins.

Arthritis Treatment

Dogs with arthritis often can have a good quality of life with a little help from you. Your vet may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling or cortisone shots to improve joint mobility. Give your dog a low, soft, warm and supportive sleeping space and avoid prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Physical therapy exercises, heat and water therapy and even massage can help reduce symptoms as well. In some cases, joint replacement surgery can help improve mobility and reduce pain.

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