If you have a dog with immune-mediated arthritis, then you know how painful it can be for him to walk, let alone run and jump sometimes. The disease causes the body's immune system to attach the tissues in the joints, leading to pain and inflammation. There is no specific cure for immune-mediated arthritis in dogs, and once a dog has the disease, he will have it for life. Luckily, there are some ways to minimize the symptoms and make your dog more comfortable.
When your dog is diagnosed with immune-mediated arthritis, one of the first things your vet will likely do is start him on an immunosuppressive medication. Basically, this medication will decrease the action of the immune system so that it cannot attack your dog's joints so aggressively. Most dogs experience a marked reduction in symptoms within several days of beginning this treatment.
The downside to immunosuppresive drugs is that, since they impair the entire immune response, they do leave your dog more susceptible to infectious diseases, from canine distemper to kennel cough. So, it will be important to isolate your dog from others who may be carrying these diseases. Do not take your dog to an off-leash dog park, and if you take him for walks on a leash, do not allow him to touch noses or sniff another dog.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice in which thin needles are inserted into the skin at very specific points. This treatment is said to alter the flow of energy, or chi, throughout the body. Modern scientists believe that acupuncture may work because it alters the way that electrical impulses flow through the nerves, which also impacts the levels of certain neurotransmitters released by the brain. In any event, acupuncture is widely used for the control of pain in both people and animals.
You can use acupuncture in combination with your dog's medication to achieve more profound relief from arthritis pain. It is a very low-risk procedure, and the number of veterinarians who offer acupuncture is growing, so you should be able to find someone who offers it in your area. Most dogs need between one and three sessions a week for the first few weeks of treatment. Then, you may be able to slow down and have your pet treated once every few weeks or once a month.
If your pet does not tolerate the insertion of acupuncture needles, your practitioner may instead use a treatment called acupressure in which the fingers are used to externally apply pressure to certain areas.
A dog with immune-mediated arthritis needs plenty of rest in order to fend off more serious "attacks" of the condition. There are bound to be days when he or she finds moving more difficult, even with the best treatment. You can keep your dog more comfortable by making changes to the setup of your home and lifestyle so that he does not have to move as much. Try these tips:
- Keep all of your dog's things, from toys to food, on one floor so he does not have to navigate the stairs.
- Put a ramp over your outdoor stairs so your dog does not have to jump up steps to come in and out.
- When your dog appears to be in pain, bring him food and water to him instead of making him walk for it.
- If your dog is larger, put his food and water bowls in a stool instead of directly on the floor so he does not have to bend down to reach them.
To learn more about caring for a dog with immune-mediated arthritis, reach out to your veterinarian.