Does your best friend seem to be slowing down? Does he hesitate before going up or down steps and seem to have a hard time getting out of bed? He could have arthritis. Experts disagree on the exact figures, but it?s estimated that some 25-30% of household pets suffer from osteoarthritis, a chronic and painful disease that slowly wears away your pet?s cartilage. In pets, as well as in humans, arthritis can be debilitating and can greatly influence your pet?s quality of life. Additional symptoms include (but are not limited to): limping, lagging behind on walks, ?clicking? sound when walking, difficulty rising from a resting position, yelping in pain when touched, a new wariness when being touched, and fluid retention around the joints. Arthritis in canines can occur for many reasons and, as with older humans, a certain degree of arthritis can be expected as your dog enters its senior years. Previous injury, genetics, infection, and immune system issues can be ?time bombs? over which you have little or no control. But obesity, because of the additional stress it puts on the joints, is a major culprit and the responsibility for this lies squarely on your shoulders. What can you do? First, schedule an examination for your pet with your veterinarian. Even before that appointment, though, there are common sense things you can do to make life easier on your dog. If your dog is overweight, put him on a diet! Putting a heating pad covered by a towel on the lowest setting over half of your dog?s bed can offer some relief. If he gets too hot, he can always move away from it. If the dog is in the habit of sleeping with you, make sure he has something he can step up on to get into bed. A small step stool or ottoman works great. Once the diagnosis of arthritis is confirmed, you can decide on a course of treatment. The most common form of treatment is drug therapy. There are several different drugs available, depending on your dog?s breed, genetic make-up, and type of arthritis and your veterinarian will discuss the options with you in detail. As with all drug therapy, side effects can occur. The most common are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and hair loss. Liver or kidney problems can occur with prolonged use. If the thought of the side effects is too worrisome for you, there are several more holistic approaches, too. Glucosomine, the wonder supplement so popular with human arthritis patients, reportedly works very well with dogs without the same risk of complications from side effects. Some people have tried acupuncture with good results. A popular herbal remedy is Cat?s Claw and with tongue-in-cheek, we recommend that you try this one at least once? the irony will not be lost on your dog.
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