Arthritis in a dog is fairly the same as this degenerative condition is in humans – affecting one or more joints. Most of the cases that occur in dogs are from an orthopaedic disease that is inherited such as osteochondrosis or hip dysplasia while others develop with an injury to the joint. A few cases of arthritis are linked to joint disease or immune-mediated infection.
Common disease in dogs
Osteoarthritis is very common and distresses one out of 5 dogs during their life. The problem is not one that only affects dogs that are older. Some causes for osteoarthritis to develop include:
- Hip dysplasia
- Trauma in the joint
- Ruptured cruciate ligaments
- And other joint conditions
Degenerative arthritis can develop even in very young dogs. Dogs that are large-breed are affected more often than smaller dogs. Dogs that are heavy are more likely to develop symptoms due to the extra strain placed on joints and ligaments. Luckily, there are some great joint supplements for dogs that can help ease the pain of arthritis.
How to diagnose
The diagnosis is made by joint x-rays that will show bone spurs at points where the ligaments and the joint capsule attach to the bone. There are all varying in degrees of the joint space as it narrows and increases density of bone around the joint.
Joint diseases are incurable
Joint diseases that are degenerative are incurable, but the treatment can improve the dog’s life substantially. Usually treatment involves weight control and physical therapy, the use of corticosteroids and analgesics for pain relief and for improved function as well as the use of chondroprotective agents that repair the cartilage in the joint and prevent any further damage. Acupuncture is also another therapy that has shown results that are good for arthritic dogs. All of these can be used at the same time.
Acupuncture and physical therapy
Physical therapy and acupuncture are alternative or additional ways to make a dog with arthritis comfortable. With severe cases, these painful joints can be surgically fused, such as the elbow or hock, relieves pain and restores movement to the limbs in some dogs.
Moderate exercise is helpful since it sustains muscle mass and conserves joint flexibility. Extreme exercise is counterproductive. Dogs with arthritis should not be allowed to stand on their back legs so jumping up and down is not something these dogs should be doing. Dogs with lameness and pain need to be exercised with a harness or a leash. There are physical therapists working in the veterinary field, who are able to help design an exercise (as well as weight loss) program.
Swimming is an exercise that is excellent that improves muscle mass without stressing the joints. Exercise may be increased as the dog improves with the use of medications.
If the dog is overweight, he should be encouraged to lose weight. Being overweight can be a serious complication during this treatment. There is an uncommon group of diseases where antibodies are focused on the dog’s own tissues of connectivity and these result in either a non-erosive or erosive arthritis. In arthritis that is erosive, joint and cartilage surfaces are damaged. In nonerosive arthritis, there is inflammation but there is no destruction of the tissue.
Take care of your pets
But no matter what type arthritis your dog has, he needs to be under the care of a vet so that your family pet can live a comfortable life.