Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative condition in dogs that becomes 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 osteoarthritis.
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. This painful condition is estimated to affect about a quarter of all dogs throughout their lifetime. Osteoarthritis can be in a dog's back legs, front legs, or all four.
Osteoarthritis in Dogs Symptoms
The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to a number of tell-tale signs that your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs 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
Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs
While osteoarthritis can develop in any breed of dog, it is most often diagnosed in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Rottweilers.
The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, but it is frequently associated with underlying issues such as a trauma injury, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or shoulder or knee dislocations.
Obesity 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. Successful treatment of this condition reduces 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.
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 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.
Exercise will need to be tailored to your dog's overall health and the severity of osteoarthritis. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.
Weight management for your dog will be an important part of their osteoarthritis treatment. Increased weight places additional strain on your dog's joints, so maintaining a healthy weight will help to alleviate 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 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, in addition to anti-inflammatory medications: therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage.
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.
The prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis
Even with osteoarthritis, your dog may be able to live a long and happy life with effective long-term pain management and a little extra care. Speak with your veterinarian to learn more about how to manage your dog's joint pain and how you can help your dog live 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.