So, arthritis. It’s such a commonly used word nowadays, but what is it?

The official definition of arthritis is “painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints”. It’s a type of degenerative disease that can be very painful, and while it most often affects senior-aged mammals (and possibly other vertebrates), it can affect anyone of any age for a variety of reasons. Arthritis is very common in dogs as well as humans, and it’s important to know about it.

An injury younger in life can lead to early-onset arthritis in that joint, or repetitive movement such as typing or grooming can degrade the joint and cause arthritis sooner than it might have naturally occurred in localized areas. Most often, simple aging results in a degeneration of the joints that affects dogs in their senior years.

Personal experience has shown me that many dogs have arthritis starting at about age seven, when they’re considered seniors. As they advance in age, arthritis gets worse, and depending on their environment, their owner’s responsibility, and their genetics, can get bad very fast, or advance slowly with the proper maintenance.

Here are some things that can affect how bad arthritis gets, and how fast it can get there:

  • Genetics. Proper breeding is important for dogs. In today’s world, it’s so easy to get a dog from a puppy mill breeder, most always with terrible genetics that lead to bad joints and bad arthritis. Consider that when acquiring a dog, and try to adopt from a shelter, rescue, or buy a dog from a responsible, reputable breeder (more on that in another post).
  • Grooming. Regular grooming and nail trims are SO important to maintaining joints that it cannot be stressed enough. Particularly for senior dogs, you have, have, have to get your dog groomed no less than every 8 weeks, and if nothing else, get their nails short and keep them that way.
  • Nutrition. Having a good feeding regime for your dog when they’re young, and keeping them on a good regime¬†for life can help build strong bones and joints, and help keep some bone and joint deformities from forming.
  • Supplements. Throughout life and once arthritis sets in, there are a variety of supplements you can have your dog on to help the lubrication of their joints and reduce any pain they may be in.
  • Exercise. Just like in people, keeping your dog active can keep them at a good weight and keep their joints fluid and not painful. It’s important that they maintain their weight and keep ¬†moving. A walk or two a day in a dog’s senior years can make a huge difference, and exercise throughout life is very important.

There’s so much more to cover on this topic, and I’ll get to that later, but for now consider these points. While there’s not a lot you can do about your current dog’s genetics, there is a lot you can do with their grooming, nutrition, supplements, and exercise that can make a difference for them, no matter where they are in their life.

Morgan Clemens is an animal enthusiast with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and a minor in Biology from Northern Arizona University.She has made a career out of caring for animals of all kinds, and training, grooming, and walking dogs.

She is the founder and operator of The Mutt Squad, and she spends most of her time with her furry, four-legged friends from all around the Portland Area.