Osteoarthritis in dogs

Osteoarthritis in dogs

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD). It is a progressive condition where the cartilage of a joint is gradually broken down. Bony changes will also occur. Osteoarthritis can cause a lot of pain for the dog, and some dogs will even become lame.

Osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs

The symptoms of osteoarthritis in a dog will vary depending on which joints that are affected, the age of the dog, and the size of the breed. The first symptom of osteoarthritis in a dog is usually altered gait, since the dog tries to put more weight on limbs that are not affected by the disease. The muscles can decrease in size (so called atrophy) in the affected limb, as a result of the dog putting less weight on it.

As a dog owner, you can often notice that your dog finds it especially hard to get up after resting. A formerly active dog can also become reluctant to perform certain motions, e.g. jumping into a car or climb the stairs. The dog might also seek out warm and/or soft places in the house since this reduces pain.

When a dog starts experiencing more severe pain as a result of the osteoarthritis, it can become less sociable and prefer to stay alone. It can also lose its appetite. A dog with osteoarthritis will rarely cry out or vocalize its pain in any other fashion, since the type of pain associated with dog osteoarthritis tend to be of a dull, aching type rather than sharp and sudden. The joints are normally not swollen in a dog with osteoarthritis.

Sometimes dogs with painful osteoarthritis will lick or even bite the affected area.

Osteoarthritis treatment for dogs

Osteoarthritis in dogs can be treated with several different methods, including surgery and/or medication. Warm compresses, massage, chiropractic treatment and acupuncture may also be beneficial. Exercise and suitable physical therapy, e.g. swimming, is also important. It is also recommended to keep the weight of your dog at a healthy level, since overweight can increase the osteoarthritis problems. 

There are a lot of things that the dog owner can do to make life easier for a dog with osteoarthritis

  • Some dogs appreciate special orthopaedic dog beds that are both soft and supportive.
  • If you dog have trouble jumping and climbing stairs, ramps can be helpful.
  • Elevated feeders can help large dogs with osteoarthritis.
  • If your dog suffers from osteoarthritis in the back or neck, it might appreciate protective clothing during cold weather, such as a dog sweater.

A lot of different companies offer nutraceutical joint supplements for dogs with osteoarthritis. The proved efficiency of such supplements varies a lot, and many of them have no scientifically proven efficiency at all. It is therefore important for the dog owner to be vigilant and seek information from several independent sources before purchasing a joint supplement for a sick dog. Also discuss the supplement with the veterinarian to avoid mixing medications and supplements known to interact with each other in a non desirable way. Two examples of commonly used joint supplements are Joint Care and FlexCare, which both contains glucosamine. Other examples of supplements used to combat osteoarthritis in dogs are fatty acid supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids.

Medical osteoarthritis treatment for dogs

NSAIDs (Non-steroid anti inflammatory drugs) can be used to alleviate pain in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. This treatment is often combined with corticosteroids.

Surgical osteoarthritis treatment for dogs

In some dogs with osteoarthritis, it is possible to treat the problem surgically. A dog with hip dysplasia can for instance benefit from a hip replacement. In many cases, the success rate of the surgical procedure will depend largely upon how far the malevolent change has been allowed to proceed in your dog.

Skeletal and muscular disorders in dogs: (click for more info)
Canine hip dysplasia
Congenital vertebral anomalies in dogs
Craniomandibular osteopathy in dogs
Elbow dysplasia in dogs
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy in dogs
Hypertrophic Osteopathy in dogs
Legg-Calvé-Perthes syndrome in dogs
Luxating patella in dogs
Masticatory muscle myositis in dogs
Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM) and Extraocular Myositis (EOM) in dogs
Osteoarthritis in dogs
Osteochondritis Dissecans in dogs
Panosteitis in dogs
Spondylosis in dogs