Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative condition that worsens over time in dogs. Although there is no cure for this painful condition, our Mechanicsburg veterinarians can provide treatments that may help manage symptoms and allow your dog to live a good quality of life as they age.
Osteoarthritis & Your Dog
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs and is a degenerative joint disorder that leads to a permanent deterioration of the cartilage that provides cushioning for the joints. This painful condition is estimated to affect about a quarter of all dogs throughout their lifetime. Osteoarthritis can occur in the dog's back legs, front legs, or both sets of legs.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs
The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to a number of tell-tale signs. The main osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs that you may notice include:
- Pain, stiffness, and lameness
- Swollen joints
- Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
- Reluctance to stand
- Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
- Unusual aggression, whining, or irritability
- Licking at joints
- Slow shuffling walk
Although this condition can develop in any breed of dog, it is most often seen in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Rottweilers, and giant breeds.
The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, but it is frequently associated with underlying issues such as a trauma injury, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or shoulder or knee dislocations.
Obesity also appears to play a role in dogs developing osteoarthritis. Excess weight can put unnecessary stress on the dog's joints leading to pain, and degenerative joint issues over time.
Treatments to Help Manage Pain
Dog osteoarthritis cannot be reversed or cured. Treatment for this condition that is successful reduces pain, helps to slow the ongoing degeneration of the affected joints, and allows your dog to live more comfortably and enjoy a good quality of life as they age.
Often a number of treatments will be used together to achieve pain relief and more comfortable mobility.
Painkillers / Pain Meds
Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories are often prescribed as a long-term treatment for managing your dog’s joint pain and helping to reduce swelling.
Exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis, despite what may appear to be a paradox. When your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it may be necessary to reduce exercise; however, staying mobile will help your dog maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and enjoy a good quality of life.
Exercise will need to be tailored to your dog's overall health and severity of osteoarthritis. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.
Weight management for your dog will be an important part of their osteoarthritis treatment. Increased weight places additional strain on your dog's joints, so maintaining a healthy weight will help to alleviate the pain caused by the condition.
Your vet may recommend putting your dog on a calorie-reduced diet if their exercise level has been reduced, or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids as a way to combat symptoms.
Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)
Physical rehabilitation is the name for physiotherapy for dogs and can include a number of treatments that are designed to help reduce pain while strengthening and improving muscle tone, maintaining range of motion, and working to improve overall endurance.
Treatments for dogs with osteoarthritis may include one or more of the following: therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage, in addition to conventional treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications.
Ask your vet if there is a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area
When joint damage is severe, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to relieve symptoms and slow the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis. Surgery may be performed to remove bone fragments that are causing the condition to worsen or to replace the affected joints.
The prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis
Even with osteoarthritis, your dog may be able to live a long and happy life with effective long-term pain management and a little extra care. Speak with your veterinarian to learn more about how to manage your dog's joint pain and how you can help your dog live a happy life for many years to come.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.