Arthritis is a devastating condition, but sadly, almost every canine will experience it at some point in its lifetime. Since you cannot cure arthritis, you and your veterinarian should focus all efforts on managing the condition as best as possible and for as much as possible.
The moment arthritis becomes unmanageable, and you can no longer control the dog’s pain and suffering, with medications, supplements, and supportive therapy, it is time for the final medical intervention – euthanasia.
Understanding Arthritis in Dogs
Arthritis in dogs is defined as a painful and progressive joint inflammation that develops due to cartilage deterioration.
Normally, the two bone surfaces making the dog’s joints are covered with a thin layer of protective cartilage. The cartilage acts like a shock absorber or cushion, preventing the two bone surfaces from rubbing.
With time, as dogs get old, the cartilage layers become thinner due to repetitive stress, or simply put, natural wear and tear. When the cartilage layer is too thin to prevent bone friction, the dog develops arthritis.
Old age is the most common reason for cartilage damage, but it is not the only one. Young dogs often develop arthritis due to traumatic injuries and congenital orthopedic deformities.
In pets, arthritis can occur in all joints, but the condition usually affects the limbs and lower spine – hips, knees, elbows, wrists, and lower back.
How to Tell When Your Dog is in Pain
The presence of pain the most important thing to consider when thinking about euthanizing a pet. Unlike humans, most animals, including dogs, are quite stoic and good at hiding painful processes.
Therefore you need to extra careful and notice even the most subtle signs of pain. The straightforward yelping, whining, or crying may not always present. Instead, you may see other symptoms like:
- Act lethargic
- Lose its appetite
- Hide more
- Exhibit behavioral changes
- Be reluctant to move and exercise.
If you are unsure whether your dog is in pain or not, see your trusted veterinarian and ask for help.
He/she can measure your dog’s blood pressure – increased blood pressure means the animal is going through something painful.
At home, you could use your dog’s normal respiration rate and pulse to check for pain. Fast breathing and increased pulse are signs of pain in all pets.
What is Euthanization
Euthanasia, in its literal translation from Greek, means “good death.” It is a humane, peaceful, and pain-free procedure that should be aimed at when your pet suffers.
It is the most difficult decision a pet owner needs to make but sometimes putting a pet down is better than prolonging its suffering.
The Process of Euthanizing a Dog
If you are considering euthanizing your pet is good to know that the procedure is quick and pain-free. You will have to call your vet and book a visit.
Most vets prefer performing these procedures early in the morning or late at night when there is the least traffic in the clinic. That decreases the stress for the dogs and the owners.
If you believe your dog would feel better in your house or transportation is an issue, check the clinic’s website whether they can perform the procedure outside their facility.
Quality of life assessment
If in doubt about whether to euthanize your pouch or not, see your trusted vet and make an objective assessment of your dog’s quality of life.
There is a special scale that will help you and your vet make the most objective assessment possible. If your dog scores below 35, the vet will advise putting your dog down. You should definitely consider the vet’s advice, but the final decision is yours, as difficult as it is.
Dogs with severe, unmanageable arthritis are in great pain and suffering. In such cases, when the dog’s joints are damaged beyond medical repair and the response to treatments and management is poor, the end-of-life decision is definitely worth considering. Ask your veterinarian whether there is any news in the field of managing arthritis before deciding what to do.
What Happens the Day of the Procedure
When the procedure day comes, the vet usually injects your dog with a sedative to keep it comfortable. Then the vet injects a liquid barbiturate called pentobarbital (otherwise used during anesthesia) in an overdose amount.
Pentobarbital works by depressing the central nervous system and making the dog drift in sleep (similar to regular general anesthesia). Eventually, the depression will halt the breathing and trigger a cardiac arrest.
This occurs really quickly – usually in no more than 10 to 20 seconds. If the owner wants, he/she is often allowed to hold his/her dog during the procedure. Some vets offer at-home euthanasia services where the dog and owner would feel more comfortable.
Euthanasia Vs. Natural Death
Both euthanasia and natural death come with their fair share of pros and cons. The idea to euthanize your dog can be overwhelming, especially if your canine baby is still young but suffering because of a painful condition. It is just as challenging if your dog is of old age and likely to soon pass away on its own.
In such cases, it is best recommended to discuss the idea with your veterinarian thoroughly. The veterinarian will guide you through the process, and his/her advice is something you need to consider carefully.
The euthanize verdict is final. Please reconsider all important factors before making the final choice.
The Advantages of Euthanasia
Euthanasia is the best choice for patients scoring below 35 on the above-mentioned scale. The common advantages include:
- A humane, quick, and pain-free procedure
- Puts an end to the suffering
The Disadvantages of Euthanasia
However, there are also few disadvantages you need to evaluate:
- Deciding to put your canine baby down is overwhelming and challenging
- You may regret the choice later on
- Your dog will die in a stressful environment in the presence of its least favorite person – the veterinarian
The Advantages of Natural Death
There are two main advantages of natural death:
- You do not have to question your decision (as a responsible pet parent, it is normal to feel fear, insecurity, and guilt when faced with the euthanize idea)
- Your dog dies in its own time and a familiar and comfortable environment surrounded by its family members
The Disadvantages of Natural Death
If a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, there is no reason not to intervene. These are the most common disadvantages of natural death:
- For dogs that suffer, waiting for natural death prolongs the painful condition
- Dying without medical intervention may take hours or even days which can be hard to watch and prolongs the suffer-period
- You may refer the choice not to euthanize your canine baby if it turns out its condition is deteriorating
Prolonging Your Dog’s Life: Ways to Live with Arthritis
You and your pouch should learn how to live with its arthritis condition. In addition to the medical treatment, you can manage dogs with milder arthritis symptoms with holistic approaches.
Ask your vet which holistic treatment is most helpful for your dog. If it is in your dog’s best interest, the veterinarian will suggest using a multimodal approach.
Here are some of the most commonly suggested holistic management options for pets with arthritis.
Proper diet is vital in arthritis patients because of two main reasons:
- maintaining a normal body weight (since the excess pounds add extra pressure on the joints)
- limiting the inflammatory processes accompanying arthritis.
Mobility Aids Like CBD Oil
CBD oil is one of the latest hits in the field of arthritis management. CBD oil derived from hemp is perfect for arthritis patients because it:
- Supports joint health and flexibility
- Provides connective tissue support and reinforcement
- Helps maintain a normal inflammatory response
- Manages inflammation processes
- Can help reduce orthopedic discomfort
- Eases joint stiffness
- May help discomfort associated with normal daily exercise and activity
You can find the best CBD oil for dogs here on our website. On our website, you can also learn about how to add CBD products to your dog’s menu, what improvements to expect and when to expect them.
You can help an arthritis patient by removing certain pro-inflammatory foods from its menu and replacing them with some anti-inflammatory natural supplements. Here is a shortlist of some of the best natural anti-inflammatory agents:
- Green Lipped Mussels
- Devil’s claw root
In the past, the rule of thumb for patients that suffer from arthritis was “exercise restriction.” Today, we know this advice is wrong as it may lead to weight gain, joint stiffening, and muscle loss.
Dogs with arthritis benefit from low-impact exercise regimens and activity modification, like walking (on leash), swimming, underwater treadmills, and nose work (scent tracking).
Swimming is the perfect example of a low-impact activity because a swimming dog bears only 38% of its body weight on the legs. Basically, swimming relieves pain and strengthens the legs without stressing the joints.
As an ancient Chinese technique, acupuncture is an efficient way of managing inflammation and reducing arthritis-related pain. There are three different acupuncture techniques – acupressure, aquapuncture, and moxibustion.
Massage promoted blood flow, and proper blood flow is crucial for healing and managing the inflammatory processes within the joints. Plus, the simple touch has a soothing effect on canines.
Based on which joint is affected by arthritis, you may need to invest in support aids like back or hip braces, pet wheelchairs, or lifting harnesses. Which support aid is best for your pouch depends on the type of arthritis it has and the affected joints.
Several simple changes in the dog’s environment can be quite beneficial for its overall joint health. A dog with arthritis will benefit from:
- ramps (for beds and cars)
- orthopedic bed (with lowered entrance)
- limited access to stairs
- using elevated food and water bowls
- covering all slippery floors
Our Final Thoughts
Arthritis is a progressive, long-term condition that can significantly limit the dog’s everyday activities. Luckily, in most cases and the early phases, there are different arthritis treatment and management options.
However, if the joint pain is excruciating, the regular functioning and moving become compromised, and a normal human-animal bond is no longer possible, you need to think about putting your canine baby down.
For us humans, the concept of euthanasia can be hard to digest, but more often than not, it is the right choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know when to put your dog down with arthritis?
You should put down your dog with arthritis if it shows signs of pain that cannot be managed, including reluctance to eat, difficult breathing, lack of mobility, severe muscle loss, emaciation, loss of bladder and bowel control, and extreme lethargy.
How long can a dog live with severe arthritis?
Arthritis is a long-term health condition that slowly worsens over time. With proper holistic care and medical treatment, dogs can still lead long, happy, and relatively normal lives even with the arthritis diagnosis. Basically, arthritis is not a life-threatening condition, but it significantly affects the dog’s quality of life.
How can I tell if my dog is in pain from arthritis?
Avoiding exercise, reluctance to eat, increased sleepiness, lethargy, and mood swings are all red flags. We should note that your dog might show only one sign while masking the others.
How far should you walk a dog with arthritis?
A dog with arthritis should be leash walked for around 30 to 60 minutes per day. Depending on its exact condition, a dog with arthritic joints could also benefit from other low-impact exercises like swimming, nose work (scent detection), and underwater treadmill therapy.