Even with routine care, a quarter of all dogs may be diagnosed with a degenerative joint condition at some point during their lives. In this post, our vets in Hoquiam discuss the causes and symptoms of joint conditions such as osteoarthritis in dogs, and what can be done to manage your dog's condition.
What is osteoarthritis in dogs?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs and is a degenerative joint disorder that leads to a permanent deterioration of the cartilage that provides cushioning for the joints.
Osteoarthritis Symptoms in Dogs
Osteoarthritis in dogs may cause a number of symptoms for your pup. Some of these symptoms include:
- Pain, stillness, and lameness
- Swollen joints
- Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
- Reluctance to stand up
- Restlessness, can't get comfortable
- Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
- Whining, irritability, or aggression
- Licking joints
- Slow shuffling walk
What are the contributing factors for osteoarthritis in dogs?
Larger breeds of dogs such as German shepherds, golden retrievers, labs, and rottweilers are more commonly affected by this condition compared to the smaller breeds.
The actual cause of osteoarthritis is largely unknown but this condition is often associated with underlying issues such as an injury due to trauma, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or dislocations of the shoulder or knee.
If your dog is obese they may also be more likely to develop osteoarthritis. Excess weight can put unnecessary stress on the dog's joints leading to pain, and degenerative joint issues over time.
What are the treatment options for osteoarthritis?
Unfortunately, osteoarthritis in dogs can not be cured. Treatment for this degenerative condition focuses on managing the pain caused by the affected joints, helps to slow the ongoing degeneration of the affected joints, and allows your dog to live more comfortably, and enjoy a good quality of life as they continue to age. Often a number of treatments will be used together to achieve pain relief and more comfortable mobility whether the osteoarthritis is in the dog's back legs, front legs, or both.
Medication / Painkillers
Because pain and inflammation are primary symptoms, your vet will likely prescribe medications to help manage these symptoms and help your dog feel more comfortable.
Regular Exercise and Physical Activity
Although it may seem counterintuitive exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis. It may be necessary to cut back on exercise when your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis however staying mobile will help your dog to maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and enjoy a good quality of life.
Your dog will have an exercise plan that is customized for the severity of their condition and the level of their abilities. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs.
A Well-Balanced and Nutritional Diet
Many dogs who are overweight struggle with the symptoms of osteoarthritis. The key to managing this will be a balanced diet (along with exercise). Increased weight puts increased stress on your dog's joints so keeping weight at a healthy level will help to minimize the pain caused by the condition.
Your vet may recommend putting your dog on a calorie-reduced diet if their exercise level has been reduced, or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids as a way to combat symptoms.
Physical rehabilitation is the name for physiotherapy for dogs and can include a number of treatments that are designed to help reduce pain while strengthening and improving muscle tone, maintaining range of motion, and working to improve overall endurance.
Physiotherapy for dogs with osteoarthritis may include one or more of the following treatments: therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage, combined with conventional treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications.
In some cases when joint damage is particularly extensive your vet may recommend surgery to help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis. Surgery may be performed to remove bone fragments that are aggravating the condition or to replace the affected joints.
What is the prognosis if my dog is diagnosed with osteoarthritis?
With effective long-term pain management and a little additional care, your dog may be able to enjoy a long and happy life even with osteoarthritis. Speak to your vet to learn more about managing your pup's joint pain, and how you can help your dog to enjoy a happy life for many years to come.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.