Arthritis is a degenerative condition that affects one or multiple joints in a dog. Most cases occur in dogs with an inherited orthopedic disease such as osteochondrosis or hip dysplasia, or those with a joint injury. It is characterized by the deterioration of connective tissue in its joints. Often these are specific to a particular breed of dog which is more susceptible to these issues for a variety of reasons. Some cases of arthritis are related to an immune-mediated joint disease or a joint infection. While larger breeds are more vulnerable, arthritis can occur in dogs of any size, and 20% of dogs experience it.
The main culprit behind canine arthritis is simply age and it is often unavoidable. There are layers of lubricated tissue in joints between bones that keep them from rubbing against one another. Over time, this tissue and the ligaments begin to stretch, allowing the bones that form the joint to oscillate slightly as they move. This in turn bruises and breaks down the joint’s surfaces causing inflammation. And as these surfaces continue to move, the inflammation causes new bone to be created where it should not be, causing pain.
Dogs with degenerative arthritis many different kinds of pain, stiffness, and joint immobility. These often appear more readily noticeable immediately after the dog has woken up. Additionally afflicted dogs often show signs of behavior changes and bad tempers associated with the pain they are experiencing. Cold and moist environments can aggravate the symptoms in dogs suffering from arthritis.
X rays are the most effective means of diagnosing canine arthritis. These will often show bone spurs and/or narrowing of the spaces in between joints.
Unfortunately, once it has begun, there is no known cure for this affliction in dogs. However, once it is diagnosed, various treatments can substantially improve the canine’s overall quality of life. Treatment involves physical therapy and weight control, the use of topical analgesics and corticosteroids to provide relief for the pain. Acupuncture is another therapy that has shown noticeably positive results for arthritic dogs in some cases. Additionally, the use of chondroprotective agents to repair joint cartilage and prevent further damage has shown to be effective. If possible, multiple or all of these methods should be used in unison.
Arthritic dogs should definitely be trained to avoid jumping repeatedly or to do any sort of activity that involves standing on their hind legs (like begging) as these activities create extra stress on the joints. Dogs with pain and lameness should be exercised on a leash or a harness. The purpose of the harness is to prevent aggressive movements and to make sure that the pressure from the leash is more evenly distributed. Another extremely advisable plan of action is to make sure that an overweight or obese dog loses weight. The additional weight causes undue stress on the joints which can aggravate the symptoms of arthritis.
It is advisable to consult a veterinary professional. Often they can advice the best treatment plan and often can advise an exercise regiment that is beneficial to the dog. In very rare cases, the veterinarian may even advise a type of surgery that can have success in alleviating pain in the dog. Regardless, it is advisable to consult a vet before embarking on any plan of action.
Photo credit: North Yorkshire Police.