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 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 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 your dog's back legs, front legs, or all four.
Osteoarthritis in Dogs Symptoms
The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to several 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
Dog osteoarthritis cannot be reversed or cured. Treatment for this condition that is successful 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 age. To achieve pain relief and more comfortable mobility, a combination of treatments is frequently used.
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.
Exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis, despite what may appear to be a paradox. When your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it may be necessary to reduce exercise; however, staying mobile will help your dog 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.
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.
If your dog's exercise level has been reduced, your vet may recommend a calorie-reduced diet or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids to alleviate symptoms.
Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)
Physical rehabilitation is the name for physiotherapy for dogs and can include several 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
When joint damage is severe, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to relieve symptoms and slow the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis. Surgery may be used to remove bone fragments that are exacerbating the condition or to replace 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.