This painful degenerative joint disease is commonly seen in older dogs. Pugs as a breed don't seem to have a high incidence of arthritis, but it can occur. Signs of arthritis, which may be subtle or obvious, include a decreased activity level; reluctance to walk very far or very fast; avoidance of running, jumping, or climbing stairs; stiffness when getting up or lying down; flinching when touched; and swollen joints that seem hot or painful. In severe cases, dogs may exhibit entirely un-puglike behavior, such as snarling or snapping when touched.

While aspirin and other analgesics work wonders for arthritis pain in humans, never give them to a dog without a veterinarian's okay. A single tablet of ibuprofen, for instance, can kill a dog the size of a pug. Aspirin in small doses can relieve arthritis pain, but don't give it without first asking your veterinarian what amount is safe.

What can you do for arthritis? There's no cure, but you can take steps to ensure that your pug stays comfortable. If you're reading this while he's still a puppy, teach him now to wait to be lifted on and off furniture and in and out of the car. This creates less risk of hurting his back and joints. Keep his weight at a healthy level. Excess pounds can stress joints. If your arthritic pug is overweight, help him shed pounds by decreasing the amount of food you give or switching him to a lower calorie food. Medications are available to relieve pain and inflammation. These canine nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are generally safe for long-term use, but regular blood testing is a must to make sure they aren't affecting liver, kidney, or digestive functions. If your pug develops side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea after taking a canine NSAID, the veterinarian may need to adjust the dose or try a different medication.

For mild cases of arthritis, supplements called nutraceuticals can help ease aches and pains. Nutraceuticals that contain naturally occurring compounds such as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), glucosamine, chondroitin, and ester C are believed to help rebuild cartilage and promote joint flexibility and mobility. While the benefit of nutraceuticals in dogs hasn't been scientifically proven, they have an edge over canine NSAIDs because they rarely cause side effects, although it can take up to two months before you see an improvement.

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