Helpful Information by Dr. Goldie Rosen


My dog is having more trouble moving around now due to the colder weather. How do I know if my dog has arthritis? What can I do to help? I am concerned as to what will happen over the winter.

What is Arthritis


Arthritis is a general term for abnormal changes in a joint. It can arise from joint tissue destruction due to infection, congenital defects, and stress and trauma to joint surfaces and supporting structures. Occasionally, disorders of the immune system will also lead to joint tissue inflammation and degeneration.


As a result of arthritis, motion becomes more and more restricted due to the joint degeneration, and the discomfort and pain prompts the dog to reduce the use of the joint. Unfortunately, the reduced use further compounds the problems associated with arthritis because the dog then gains weight, and continued disuse further limits joint mobility (1).


How do I know if my dog has arthritis?

Arthritis is one of the most common ailments seen in middle-aged to older pets. Even younger dogs, under the right circumstances, can suffer from arthritic changes. Arthritis causes changes within affected joints that are painful for the affected pet. This pain is responsible for many of the signs associated with arthritis. Here are seven of those common signs. 


1. Limping: You may see your pet limping or favouring one or more of his legs, depending on which legs and which joints are arthritic. In some cases, the limp may seem worse when your pet first rises and may become less noticeable as your pet 'warms up' by moving around.


2. Difficulty Moving: Your pet may also become reluctant to do things that were previously easy for him/her to accomplish. For instance, your dog may find it difficult to get into and out of the car or may have difficulty going up and down stairs that were previously easily manageable.


3. Spinal Issues: Arthritic changes can occur not only in the legs but also in the various parts of the spine. These changes may result in a sore neck, an abnormal posture with a 'hunch' in the back, or lameness of one or both hind legs.


4. Tiredness: Your pet may tire more easily. For dogs, this may mean that walks become shorter and more painful for your pet. Your pet may spend more time sleeping and/or resting.


5. Irritability: Arthritic animals may become irritable. They may snap and/or bite when approached or handled, particularly if the petting or handling takes place in a manner that increases their pain.


6. Muscle Atrophy: Arthritic pets often develop muscle atrophy or dying of the muscle tissue due to inactivity and decreased use of the muscles. A pet with atrophied muscles in their legs will have a leg which looks thinner than a normal leg.


7. Licking, Chewing & Biting: Pets affected with arthritis may also begin to lick at, chew or bite at body areas that are painful. This may even reach the point of causing inflamed skin and hair loss over affected areas (2).


Alleviating the Discomfort of Arthritis

Although arthritis cannot be cured, there are various remedies and procedures that can help ease the pain for your pet. Consult your veterinarian for advice if you believe your dog is suffering from arthritis.

There are anti-inflammatory medications that can be prescribed to dogs that are safe and effective. However, you need to talk to your veterinarian to discuss the pros and cons of any medication your dog is taking, especially those being taken on a continuing basis.

Immediately discontinue use of any medication, and contact your veterinarian, as soon as a suspected adverse reaction occurs. Reactions can be variable, subtle, severe, or unusual; individual attention to each medication's potential adverse effects should be discussed with your veterinarian (1).


How to Manage a Dog with Arthritis

Keeping excess body weight to a minimum is a very important aspect of managing arthritis in dogs. Often, simply reducing the dog's weight to a reasonable level will effect noticeable changes in the dog's activity and mobility.

Exercise is important to entice the dog to maintain and improve joint movement and flexibility. A hardwood floor of a living room or doghouse will not serve the dog well in alleviating joint stiffness. Placing yoga mats or carpets on hardwood floors helps with mobility. Also, keep your dog on the main floor to avoid stairs, by using a baby gate (this is house proofing your senior dog instead of puppy). Massage therapy, swimming, or water therapy offered at some clinics can also help.

One last word of caution. Some medications that humans commonly take to subdue arthritic discomfort are totally inappropriate for use in dogs. Acetaminophen, for example, has been associated with liver damage in dogs and Ibuprofen has been reported to cause gastro-intestinal bleeding.

Your veterinarian will help you decide which course of action is best for your pet. It is very important not to try treating your pet with any type of product, nutraceutical or NSAID, without consulting your veterinarian. It is also important to use products approved for animals rather than a product made for humans (1).


1. T.J. Dunn, Jr., DVM, Arthritis: How to Recognize and Manage the Condition, PetMD.com

2. Lorie Huston, DVM, 7 Signs Your Dog or Cat May be Suffering from Arthritis, PetMD.com


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What do I do after my pet passes away?

If you are reading this, you are probably, unfortunately, going to be suffering the loss of a pet very soon. Whether it is your beloved dog, cat, or rabbit you are faced with a dilemma: what do I do with my pet's remains after they pass away? 


This is a profoundly upsetting question, and most of us don't even want to think of an answer. However, we need to think about it so we know how we are going to handle it.


Here are 3 choices you will need to face at the time of your pet's death: Private Cremation, Communal Cremation, or Burial.


For cremation, I recommend a family owned and operated pet crematory named Pets Above. They are located in the Township of Guelph/Eramosa, Ontario.


      • Private Cremation: At Pets Above, they have a crematory that is reserved exclusively for your pet. Your pet will be cremated alone, and the cremated remains will be carefully removed and secured in the urn of your choice. A signed certificate of cremation is included with this service.


      • Communal Cremation: At Pets Above, your pet is gently placed in the crematorium in a group setting among other pets. The communally cremated remains are later interred in a communal burial plot at the Ancaster Pet Cemetery as a final tribute. Each communal burial plot is identified with a Pets Above cemetery marker. It is important to note that, with this service, the cremated remains of your beloved pet will not be returned to you.


      • Burial: Halton Region and City of Burlington Animal Control recommends that pets that are euthanized be cremated. If however, a cat or dog passes away from natural causes, it is recommended that they are buried 4 to 6 feet deep, and in a bio-degradable bag (not a plastic bag). This is a big undertaking at a time of stress.What do I do if I am unable to bury my pet?  I offer a service to come pick up your pet, transport the pet to my car, and arrange the aftercare arrangements. Please contact me for more information about this service.


Should I choose Private or Communal Cremation?


In my opinion, I would suggest choosing Private Cremation. Pets Above adhere to a strict code of ethics and practices in all aspects of their operation. All pets entering their facility are assigned a unique pet record and pet reference number (tagged and barcoded) that follows them through every step of the cremation process, ensuring accuracy and accountability.


They also offer a wide range of decorative urns, paw prints, and many other beautiful products to memorialize your beloved pet. You will get your pet's unique reference number, which can be used to select your memorial. I offer complimentary engraving or personalization on any urns or keepsakes you choose. In addition, after the euthanasia has been completed, I can provide a complimentary paw print using quick dry plasticine. After the family spends a few private moments with their pet, I will transport the pet to my car, and arrange the aftercare service.


It would be my pleasure to take care of the aftercare arrangements for your pet. When you receive your pets cremated remains, you will be able to breathe a sigh of relief, as they will always be yours to memorialize. Many people feel that having some part of their pet near them helps pay tribute to their lives and all the special memories.


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