Arthritis in your dog

Arthritis in dogs can be as uncomfortable for them as it is for humans but there are ways of managing the disease to ease your pet’s pain.

What is arthritis in Dogs ?

 

Arthritis in dogs has symptoms of ‘inflammation in the joints’ and is a common problem for many pets. Most people have run across a dog suffering from arthritis that has shown the textbook signs of pain, discomfort and stiffness in their joints.

 

If a pet has normal heathy joints, the bone surfaces are covered with a thin layer of very smooth cartilage, lubricated with a small amount of joint fluid that allows the two surfaces to glide freely over one another with very litle friction. In dogs with arthritis, cartilage within the joint undergoes transformation or damage, becoming less smooth and resulting in friction when bone surfaces rub together. This causes discomfort to your dog, as well as further damage to cartilage. As a direct result of this increased friction, new bone starts to form around the joint making the joint stiffer, which limits its movement even more – a condition known as degenerative joint disease.

What causes arthritis in Dogs ?

Typically arthritis is a problem mainly seen in older dogs, but the condition can develop from an early age following problems with bone and joint development. Depending on the cause, arthritis may affect one or multiple joints in dogs. So what is the causes? Most cases develop as a result of abnormal rubbing within the joint caused by joint instability (e.g. ligament damage), damage to or abnormal cartilage development, or damage caused by trauma (e.g. fractures). Like humans, signs of arthritis can often vary throughout the pet ‘s life and result in the early onset of joint problems when older in age.

Joint Cartilage Erosion in Dogs

What are the signs that my dog has arthritis?

Often owners ask how they can tell if their dog’s are suffering from arthritis. As the disease progresses, it almost always causes pain and stiffness, dogs may not be as apt to exercise as they were in the past and may show lameness or obvious stiffness (especially after long periods of inactivate). Commonly this stiffness improves with any kind of movement or exercise, with cold and/or damp conditions usually worsening symptoms. Some dogs may even lick constantly at an underlying painful joint – occasionally causing unwanted patches of saliva staining – but rarely do joints appear hot or swollen; more commonly changes are subtle and undetectable to the naked eye. Some pets will show obvious signs of pain, whereas others may just become slower or grumpier.

How are dogs diagnosed with arthritis?

If your vet sees signs your dog is suffering, they can sometimes tell which joints are affected by any pain and/or discomfort by examination, including joint flexion and extension. But to investigate properly they usually suggest further tests (e.g. x-rays), which help will help locate and conmfirm arthritic change, and sometimes identify any underlying causes also.

Occasionally (in the case of suspected joint infection, for example) your vet may recommend a small sample of fluid is taken from inside the joint and, in some cases, blood samples may be required to rule out any medical conditions associated with arthritis.

How is arthritis treated in dogs 

There are many therapy options available today, it is paramount to match any treatment with their underlying causes and possible joint(s) involved. Arthritis is commonly worse in overweight and unhealthy dogs, so the most important therapy is the combination of weight control and exercise management: minimizing load on the joints, and maximizing the range of movement and fitness of the muscles around those joints.

 

Some pets benefit from anti-inflammatory therapy for a few weeks or months, with long-term drug therapy proving not as useful. Pain relief is vital and the most common veterinary painkillers used are called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Natural supplements are best for long term help with Arthritis.

Dog with Arthritis

What possible medications are available?

If your vet finds that your dog has arthritis, they may require treatment on numerous visits over their lifetime, with treatments varying greatly in terms of medication and timescale between visits to give your dog the best immediate and long-term solution.

There are three main families of drugs used to treat canine arthritis. The first are cartilage protectors designed to reduce cartilage damage (including hyaluronic acid, polysulphated glycosaminoglycans and pentosan polysulphate). These may all reduce cartilage degeneration, as well as promote repair of joint structures and reduce painful inflammation.

Nutraceuticals are not medicinal products, but supplements that are designed to support the healthy function of dogs. Commonly used “nutraceuticals” are joint supplements. A growing number of vets recommend joint supplements such as Chondropaw (www.chondropaw.com)  as these supplements tend to contain chondroitin and glucosamine, which occur naturally in joint cartilage alongside natural ingredients that are potent antioxidant.

Joint supplements can often be given as a treat alongside any prescription medicines prescribed by your vet.

The third set is anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These seem ideal for managing inflammation associated with arthritis, but potential problems are their significant side effects, resulting in some warning against long-term use. In the short term, drugs with the highest impact on analgesia and inflammation are often the first choice, but using them in the medium or long term may prove detrimental to the pet so alternatives must be sought.

New drugs are always being developed and becoming available, so development of a successful management plan in the patient requires regular review of the current medication with detailed progress reports from the owner.

Can arthritis in dogs be cured?

In terms of prognosis, unfortunately it’s the case that once cartilage in your dog’s joint(s) has been damaged it rarely repairs itself completely. But the good news is many pets can successfully be made pain free by appropriate long-term use of nutracueticals, medication and sensible management to control further deterioration.

With so much variety in severity of arthritis between patients, many dogs cope well, leading full and active lives without any veterinary intervention at all. However, certain pets will require treatment ranging from simple lifestyle changes to complex surgery.

Who can I contact for further advice?

 

Chondropaw.com is not a veterinary organisation and is unable to provide general or case specific veterinary advice. If you have any questions regarding any of the issues discussed in this article then please contact your local veterinary practice for further information.

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