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For humans, arthritis is a common, potentially devastating disorder.  Most commonly, it impacts the sufferer’s joints in a number of ways, leading to significant complications such as pronounced pain, extreme fatigue and movement-restricting stiffness. Just like with humans, dogs too can develop various types of arthritis.

Affected Breeds

Tthere may be certain dog breeds that are more susceptible to arthritis than others, but all dogs have the potential to develop arthritis. In particular, large dogs such as German Shepherds, St. Bernards, Retrievers, Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Mastiffs and Rottweilers are more likely to develop arthritis as their bodies grow quickly into adulthood while simultaneously engaging in exhaustive physical activity. But that’s not to say that smaller breeds are exempt, as Dachshunds, Basset Hounds and Bulldogs are also high-risk breeds. These smaller dogs develop arthritis for different reasons, but it is usually due to a mix of genetic predispositions and cartilage disorders.

Common Symptoms

Because arthritis is so prominent among dogs, it’s important to know what symptoms to look for. You might start noticing subtle things over time. Maybe your dog doesn’t seem as enthused about taking that once-invigorating evening walk, or the task of jumping up to a favorite chair has become a thing of the past.

Other common symptoms include increased panting, loss of appetite, abnormalities in your dog’s walk, a reluctance to move about, aggression or irritability and more. Sometimes, there are even clear visual deformities (such as extreme swelling) in the affected joints.

Treatment Options

Since the various symptoms of arthritis can range from subtle to extreme, a veterinarian’s professional evaluation of your dog’s pain response is critical to confirm an arthritis diagnosis. After this, proper treatment can begin. As with humans, there are a number of treatment options which vary in effectiveness. Some of the most common treatment options for dogs suffering from arthritis include: 

Dietary Adjustments 

These are arguably the first line of defense against the worsening of arthritis and the severity of its symptoms. Weight loss is a goal of these dietary adjustments, especially if the animal is overweight. Many popular dog food manufacturers such as Iams make high-quality food specifically designed for dogs suffering from arthritis and other joint issues.

Exercise

Exercise is essential for helping your dog maintain its range of motion. However, adjustments might have to be made so your pup doesn’t become too worn out or injure itself. Consider taking short walks instead of long runs to gradually rebuild joint strength. Steroids can reduce swelling and inflammation in joints, ultimately alleviating some of the pain the dog is experiencing.

Surgery

Surgery to repair, replace or fuse joints may be considered in scenarios where non-surgical treatment proves ineffective. This is often a last resort.

While canine arthritis is progressive, just as it is with humans, it often doesn’t strike until the dog reaches old age. Even then, it can usually be managed with patience, caution and care (as well as the guidance of a knowledgeable veterinarian) to ensure that your dog still lives a happy, comfortable life.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.