Unfortunately arthritis is a disease that isn't just inflicted upon the human race. Sadly it is a very common medical condition in both humans and animals. Essentially it is an inflammation in a joint, and it can affect any part of your dog's body. The major effects are pain, problems in moving, and swelling of the joints. The wear and tear of normal daily use of the joints is a big reason. Other reasons can be obesity, joint infections, dislocation, immune system illness, muscle, ligament or tendon injury.
The most common breed of dogs that suffer from this disease are Retrievers, German Shepherds and Labradors as arthritis is also an inherited disease. Each joint has two or more bones near each other. At the end of these bones is articular cartilage this gives a smooth area for the bones to move against each other. A thick fluid in the joint acts as a lubricant and shock absorber, and this then helps to protect the bones from any kind of grinding action. As the arthritis develops, the cartilage becomes rough and worn, and the joint fluid starts to thin and become watery. Movement becomes uncomfortable as there is less lubrication and smoothness in the joint, as the cartilage continues to wear away, bone will eventually rub on bone.
So how can you give your dog the best chance of avoiding arthritis later in life? Firstly weight control is vitally important. We all love to spoil our pets but their health should come before anything else. Obesity puts a massive strain on your dogs joints and limbs. Losing a bit of extra fat will provide immediate relief. The extra weight will cause the cartilage to disintegrate rapidly. There are cases of overweight dogs developing arthritis as young as 5 years old, so look after them now. Keeping them weight free gives them a better chance in their senior years to bypass arthritis.
Keep your dog active. The onset of arthritis in your dog can be delayed with plenty of exercise. A walk around the streets isn't really enough. A good run in the local park will keep their weight down and keep their joints limber. The natural fluid in the body will help to lubricate the joints and limbs. However, if your dog already has arthritis then little and often is more appropriate. When walking if your dog stops to rest don't push them to do more. Two walks a day, no longer than fifteen minutes each should help. Keep your dog on easy routes such as flat, smooth paths, no hills. Just as humans find swimming helps arthritic joints, so do dogs. Also they usually enjoy it.
Obviously once arthritis has set in you can't do anything to cure it. All you can do is help prevent it from developing too quickly. You can make your dogs life easier by giving them a soft bed with an orthopaedic foam base. Most pet shops and pet sites have a good selection to choose from. Brush their coat where they may have difficulty in reaching. Keep their bowls at a slightly higher level than before so they don't have to strain to feed. A healthy diet will also provide nutrients that your dog needs. There are many brands of pet food that now cater for senior dogs.
In terms of medications and herbal supplements to help with your dogs arthritis, it is always best to consult your vet.