Osteoarthritis in dogs is progressive and degenerative in nature, meaning that it will become more severe over time. Although there is no cure for this painful condition, symptoms can often be successfully managed to help your dog enjoy a good quality of life as they continue to age with OA.
What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs and is a degenerative joint disorder that leads to irreversible deterioration of the cartilage that cushions the joints. This painful condition is estimated to affect about a fourth of all dogs during their lifetimes.
Osteoarthritis in Dogs Symptoms
The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to a number of easy-to-spot signs that your dog may be suffering from the condition. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs include:
- Pain, reluctance to move, and lameness
- Swollen joints
- Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
- Reluctant to stand up
- Restlessness, inability to get comfortable
- Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
- Whining, irritability, or aggression
- Licking joints
- Slow shuffling walk
Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs
Although osteoarthritis can develop in any breed of dog, it is often diagnosed in larger breeds like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Rottweilers.
What causes 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.
A dog's weight is also associated with osteoarthritis. Excess weight can put unnecessary stress on the dog's joints leading to pain and degenerative joint issues over time.
Treatment to Help Dogs With Osteoarthritis Live More Comfortably
Osteoarthritis in dogs cannot be reversed or cured, but managing the condition includes a successful reduction of the pain caused by affected joints. Treatment helps to slow the ongoing degeneration of the affected joints, allowing 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.
Painkillers / Pain Meds
Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories are often prescribed as a long-term treatment for managing your dog’s joint pain and helping to reduce swelling.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, ensuring that dogs with osteoarthritis is essential for their wellbeing. Despite the necessity of reducing the amount of exercise your dog does after first being diagnosed with osteoarthritis, staying mobile will help your dog to maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and enjoy a good quality of life.
Exercise will need to be tailored to your dog's overall health and severity of osteoarthritis. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.
Managing your dog's weight will be a key element of their treatment for osteoarthritis. 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 (Physio for Dogs)
Physical rehabilitation is physiotherapy for dogs and can include a number of treatments 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 could include a number of therapies including 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.
Speak to your vet to find a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area!
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.
Prognosis for Dogs 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.