There is nothing harder for a dog lover than to see a cherished pet in pain. They look at you with those sad eyes, never complaining, but wondering why you, the beloved owner who looks after their every need, are not doing anything to help. It can make you feel very helpless but, like anything involved in pet care, you just have to get on and do what you can. As animals can suffer the pain and restrictions of arthritis as much as their owners, and arthritis is a condition you are both going to have to live with for a long time, it will pay to find out what can be done to help.
What Are the Danger Signs?
Osteoarthritis is a condition where the cartilage (the tissue that coats the ends of the bones to enable them to slide over each other in a joint) gradually wears away, causing the bones to rub against each other. This is painful and restrictive for movement.
Arthritis can strike any animal at any age, but some factors can increase the risk:
- The older the animal, the more likely it is to develop arthritis.
- Some animals may be congenitally more disposed towards arthritis than others.
- Injuries to joints and bones at a young age can develop into arthritis later in life.
- While all the above are things you can do little about, there is one other factor that often predisposes an animal to arthritis, which is being overweight.
The earliest sign of arthritis is likely to be an animal slowing down or limping. Your first response, if the symptoms do not go away very quickly, is to take your pet for examination by a vet. This will eliminate more serious conditions, confirm the diagnosis if it is arthritis, and set you up with advice straight away.
If your dog is overweight, then you should immediately enforce a diet. While reducing the overall calories, you want to make sure that your dog is getting an adequate supply of the nutrients which are particularly good for joints. This might involve either a specialist diet or supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin.
Exercise is very important for the management of arthritis. Make sure that your pet gets regular, short spells of exercise to keep her joints moving and her muscles toned.
Even if you start treating the symptoms straight away and slow down the progress of the disease, it is almost impossible to reverse the effects of arthritis, so pain management is likely to be an ongoing issue.
Long-term use of conventional painkillers for animals can come with unwelcome side effects, although they are useful for preserving quality of life during periodic flare-ups.
What About Cannabis?
Much interest is being shown currently in the possibility of treating animals with cannabinoids. These are a group of chemical compounds which are produced by plants of the genus cannabis.
All animals have what is known as an endocannabinoid system, a group of receptors present throughout the central nervous system. This system appears to have numerous functions, one of which is the control of pain. When these receptors bind with cannabinoids derived from the plants their function (including pain control) is stimulated. The most significant cannabinoid for pain treatment is cannabidiol, or CBD.
It is important to note that CBD is different from THC, the familiar chemical compound which causes the “high” of marijuana. CBD is, in practice, derived from industrial hemp, which contains little or no THC.
Because the legal status of cannabis is ambivalent, there has not been as much controlled testing of the effects of CBD as it deserves. However, the research that has been done seems to concur with theoretical expectations and anecdotal experience to show that it appears to be effective for treating chronic pain in animals with few apparent side effects.
Incidentally, if you want further information about how CBD can help people as well as animals, these specialists market CBD to both two-legged and four-legged sufferers.
We Do What We Can
Frankly, as a pet owner, there is little that you would not do to help a dog who is experiencing the misery of pain and immobility that arthritis can bring. Some of what you can do involves insisting that they do what is good for them, like eating and exercising sensibly, but some of it means keeping up with the progress that is being made towards effective treatments.
Amelie Bell practices holistic medicine and is always on the lookout for ways to heal others. Her articles are available on a number of health and wellness websites.