In humans, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Just as people have a greater chance of developing osteoarthritis as they age, senior dogs are also at a greater risk. It is a chronic disease, meaning that it does not go away. Answers to some of the frequently asked questions about canine osteoarthritis can help you recognize signs and symptoms in your dog.
What Is Canine Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease affecting the cartilage which adds cushioning to the joints. This cushioning covers the bones in the joints, preventing them from rubbing together. When the cartilage deteriorates, the rubbing of bones leads to pain and difficulty in walking. In humans, it is often referred to as “wear-and-tear” because it results from overuse of joints. In dogs, the disease occurs as a secondary condition after they have developed other orthopedic diseases.
Where Does OA Affect Dogs?
The most common joints affected are the elbows, hip, elbows, and stifle (the equivalent of the human knee).
Are There Any Risk Factors Other Than Age?
Bodyweight, size of dog, obesity, exercise, and diet are risk factors. Some breeds are predisposed to the disease and those that are large and heavy are more likely to develop the disease. Those breeds at greatest risk include:
· German Shepherds
· Labrador retrievers
· Great Danes
· Golden Retrievers
· Saint Bernards
· Old English Sheep Dogs
Although these dogs are at a great risk of developing OA, any dog can develop it at any age. Dog owners need to be aware of difficulty walking or climbing in dogs that might signal the onset of the disease.
What Are The Symptoms I Should Look For?
Some dogs may begin to show a lack of interest in activities. They may seem stiff or unable to walk normally. They will experience pain if you manipulate the affected joint.
How Is OA Diagnosed?
The vet will perform a physical examination of the pet to determine if there is a thickening of the joint, accumulated fluid, or any sign of muscle atrophy. The vet may have you walk the dog to spot the problem joint(s) and see which joint(s) is affected. In most cases, x-rays will be used to show any changes in the bone. MRIs and CTs are sometimes used to view soft tissue.
What Treatments Are Available?
There are multiple modes of treatment starting with weight control and activity modification. Too much bodyweight or high-impact exercises can cause further development of the disease and greater pain to your dog. Joint supplements formulated specifically for dogs can be helpful, along with anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medications that help make the dog more comfortable. In some cases, surgery may be required.
Can My Dog Be Cured?
OA is incurable in people and dogs. It is also progressive, meaning that it will continue to worsen over time. Treatment is designed to control symptoms and slow progression of the disease.
What Can I Co To Help My Dog Feel Better?
Take your dog for regular checkups with the vet. Pay attention to any changes in his condition so the vet can adjust his treatment as needed. Manage your dog’s weight to take the pressure of too much body weight off of his painful joints. Keep your dog active by exercising on soft surfaces with lower impact whenever possible. Playing in the backyard is more desirable than playing on concrete.
Arthritis symptoms can be aggravated by cold and damp. A heated bed with a support interior can help. Consider massage to relieve aching joints and keep joints more flexible. Even acupuncture is used to relieve canine osteoarthritis. Finally, give your dog all the affection he needs to feel secure and supported in his home environment.