Golden Retriever with Arthritis

Golden Retriever with Arthritis Overview

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of arthritis is “inflammation of joints.” Arthritis can be caused by many different things and conditions, such as infection (especially from a tick-borne diseases), immune-mediated disease, trauma, and problems with the metabolism. The most common form of arthritis in dogs, however, is due to degenerative changes in joints which is caused by developmental problems, age or overuse.

Golden Retriever with Arthritis

While all dogs regardless of age or breed can be affected by arthritis, certain factors increase a dog’s risk factor. Poor conformation, for example, can make a dog much more likely to develop arthritis. Large breeds, such as Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and German shepherds are more prone to arthritis, and obese dogs are more likely to develop it than dogs that are fit. Also, older dogs are prone to arthritis because of the years of wear and tear on their joints.

Types of arthritis seen in dogs

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD): This is the long-term deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints. This cartilage allows the joint a pain free range of motion.  When the cartilage becomes inflamed or wears down, your pet will most likely experience pain.

Hip dysplasia: This is a genetic disease that results in malformation of the hip joint (a ball-and-socket joint). Chronic inflammation of the hip joints occurs because of misalignment, and the cartilage in the joint gradually deteriorating, causing pain and inflammation. There are various surgical procedures available to help dogs with hip dysplasia, as well as medications that can help alleviate the pain associated with it.

If you are considering owning a purebred puppy that may be at risk for hip dysplasia, consider getting a puppy from a local breeder who has had both parents certified against hip dysplasia and other inherited forms of joint disease by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). To learn more about OFA certification, visit their Web site at www.offa.org Genetic screening for hip dysplasia is available for  Golden Retrievers and Labradors, as well, using the Hip Dysplasia DNA Dysgen Test®.

Golden Retriever Hip and Joint

Elbow dysplasia:

This is a hereditary disease in which the bones do not develop normally, causing misalignment of the joint, damage to the cartilage, and even chipping of the bones, which leads to chronic inflammation. This is most common in larger-breed dogs like Golden Retrievers and German Shepard and is thought to be inherited.  Surgery is often needed to correct this problem.

Knee dysplasia:

Some dogs, especially small toy breeds, will have malformed knee joints. As seen with hip and elbow dysplasia, this is an inherited conformational defect that causes arthritis. Some of these smaller breed dogs will be effected by knee caps that pop in and out of position; the medical term for this is “luxating patella.” A dog suffering from this will limp until the knee cap returns to the correct position. Surgery is often needed to correct knee dysplasia.

Signs & Symptoms

Arthritis can be mild to severe; your four-legged pooch may experience different signs depending on the severity of the arthritis.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Popping and cracking during joint movement
  • Muscle atrophy (the muscles around the joint become smaller)
  • Licking area around joint
  • Slow to get up from a resting position
  • Loss of appetite or unusual weight gain in some cases
  • Unwillingness to walk, jump, or climb stairs
  • Accidents in the house
  • Vocalizing pain by whining or whimpering
  • Depression or aggravation
Golden Retriever with Hip Dysplasia

Diagnosis & Treatment

In order to treat your dog’s arthritis, your vet will want to perform a thorough physical exam and take a complete history of your pooch. Your vet will perform simple motion tests and observe your dog’s movements.

They may recommend the follow additional tests, as well:

  • Antibody/Antigen tests to identify if your pet has been exposed to tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease
  • PCR testing, if necessary, to confirm exposure to certain diseases
  • Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver and pancreatic function as well as sugar levels
  • A complete blood count to screen for infection, inflammation, or anemia
  • Urine tests to screen for urinary tract infections and other diseases, and to evaluate the kidney’s ability to concentrate urine
  • A thyroid test to determine if the thyroid gland is producing too little thyroid hormone
  • Radiographs (x-rays) of the joints and back
  • Joint fluid analysis to help evaluate the cause

Once your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis, your vet will recommend a treatment protocol tailored to your pet’s specific needs. Treatments may include:

  • Treating the underlying cause of arthritis, if possible
  • Prescribing medications or supplements to help with pain
  • Dietary management, if your dog is overweight
  • Nutritional supplements thought to help lubricate the joint and help rebuild joint cartilage such as Chondroitin
  • Surgery for the various dysplasias, as outlined above
  • Joint Health Supplement for Dogs like Chondropaw

If your dog is put on a medication such as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, your vet may recommend routine lab tests on blood and urine to monitor your pet’s tolerance to the medication. Make sure you follow all recommendations from your vet and call immediately if your dog’s condition gets worse.

Prevention

While not all forms of arthritis are preventable, you can help reduce your dog’s risk as well as the severity of the disease by ensuring your pooch gets plenty of appropriate low impact exercise,eats properly to support slow growth in puppies and to maintain lean body weight, and that you contact your vet early if you think your pet may have arthritis.

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