Osteoarthritis is the most common type of dog arthritis. While there are many different types of arthritis, osteoarthritis refers to degenerative arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. Arthritis and osteoarthritis in dogs is the most common source of chronic pain for older canines.
Osteoarthritis is caused by progressive inflammation and deterioration of the soft tissue, cartilage and bone in one or more joints. It is a chronic and degenerative joints disease that leads to pain and decreased mobility. The cartilage in the dog’s joints breaks down and causes friction between the bones. Inflammation also can cause bony growth on the joints and thicken the soft tissue.
What Causes Osteoarthritis in Dogs?
Arthritis in dogs is most commonly a result of old age. It can also be linked to repeated trauma to the joint or old injuries. In some cases dogs suffer from congenital joint diseases such as osteochondrosis, or hip and elbow dysplasia that can result in arthritis as the dog ages. Metabolic diseases such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease have also been linked to wearing down the cartilage and causing osteoarthritis in dogs.
Two other factors that contribute to degenerative arthritis in dogs are activity level and weight. Dogs that are athletic and working dogs are more likely to develop arthritis. Overweight dogs are also at a higher risk for developing arthritis since their joints are under more stress.
Symptoms of Canine Arthritis
Dogs with arthritis tend to be less active than normal, and lethargic. They may have difficulty rising, climbing stairs, or jumping onto furniture and into cars. In some cases osteoarthritis causes cracking sounds when the joint is moved and a change in the dog’s ability to bark. Obvious signs of arthritis in dogs include stiffness, visible pain, and muscle wastage.
When the symptoms of arthritis begin to appear in your dog, especially if he or she is an older dog, an appointment should be made with a veterinarian immediately so that a diagnosis can be made and dog arthritis treatment can begin.
Diagnosing Dog Osteoarthritis
Diagnosing arthritis in dogs is done through several different procedures. First, your vet will have you describe the signs of osteoarthritis in your dog, and then they will do a physical and orthopedic examination. The vet will check the joints and examine their range of motion. An x-ray and anthrocentesis, where the joint fluid is tested with a needle, may be performed. Pain levels may not be consistent with cartilage loss as shown on x-rays, so doctors may recommend using a CT scan or MRI.
Treatment for Osteoarthritis in Dogs
Dog arthritis treatment is designed to reduce pain and inflammation, improve joint function and whenever possible eliminate the cause of arthritis and halt the arthritic process, possibly through surgery. Treating osteoarthritis in dogs may include therapy as well as medication.
Dogs that are overweight should be put on a strict diet to get them down to a normal weight. This will put less stress on the joints and alter the amount of medication the dog needs to take. An exercise program should be started to reduce weight, maintain range of motion and muscle mass, and promote cartilage health. Exercise for dogs with arthritis should vary depending on the severity of the degenerative joint disease.
Dog arthritis medication should always be prescribed by a veterinarian. There are 6 types of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can be used provide pain relief for dogs with arthritis. They are Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Etogesic, Metacam, Zubrin, and Previcox. Dog arthritis medications can have serious side effects, so make sure the dosages are monitored by a veterinarian.
Depending on the severity of the dogs degenerative joint disease corticosteroids may be prescribed to control pain. Injections that decrease enzymes that damage cartilage and stimulate cartilage growth may be given to protect cartilage.
Another popular dog arthritis treatment is glucosamine. It has shown to rehabilitate and provide pain relief in dogs. Glucosamine for dogs is a natural way to stimulate cartilage health, since it is already found in the cartilage fluid. The glucosamine is absorbed and distributed to the joint tissue, where it works as an anti-inflammatory and joint regenerator. Ask your vet about glucosamine for dogs and other arthritis supplements for dogs.
Prevent Dog Arthritis
Osteoarthritis in dogs can be avoided by keeping your dog at a healthy weight and making sure he gets plenty of exercise. In addition, look for breeds of dogs that are not predisposed to hip dysplasia, which is a common cause of osteoarthritis in dogs.
Arthritis in dogs in a progressive disease that gets worse with time. However, with proper dog arthritis treatment the disease can be slowed. Joint replacement surgery for dogs may be done in extreme cases, with excellent recovery results.