This month we are going to look at arthritis in dogs, a topic that will be familiar to a lot of people with older dogs or dogs who have had injuries to joints in the past.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is defined as inflammation of a joint, and is one of the most common causes of chronic pain in adult dogs, it is most prevalent in dogs older than 7. Left untreated, it can lead to degenerative joint disease which is a progressive and permanent deterioration of the cartilage of the synovial joints. This means the cartilage that acts as a cushion between the two bones in the joint is worn away faster than it is replaced. Hips, stifles(knees) and the rest of the joints in the legs are usually most affected.
What causes arthritis in dogs?
There are a couple of factors that can lead to joint damage,
- Infectious agents – usually only affecting one joint
- Immune-mediated disease – rhueumatoid arthritis
- Trauma – torn cruciate ligament
- Hereditary factors – hip dysplasia
- Breed Disposition – Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Rottweilers
- Excess Weight – overweight dogs put their joints under pressure with the excess weight
All of these can damage one or more joints. When a damaged joint is being used, it cannot repair itself and it continues to deteriorate until the mobility of the joint decreases which can then lead to chronic pain.
What to watch out for with your pet!
- Slowing down on walks
- Reluctance to climb steps
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Pain when exercising
- Licking at a certain joint
The key to successful treatment is early identification and taking steps to reduce any ongoing stress and trauma to joints. Infections can be treated with antibiotics and pain can be managed, however it is important to realize that once a joint is damaged, the next step is management.
There is no cure for a damaged joint but there are many ways to slow down the damage and manage the pain caused.
What should I do if I notice any of the signs above?
If you suspect your dog is suffering from arthritis, the best way to get confirmation is to take them to the vet for a consultation.
An x-ray will show any arthritic changes in your dog’s joints. Depending on the severity of the case, there are different management options available.
- Diet is important, as mentioned excess weight puts pressure on the joints, if your dog is overweight, the first step is to begin a diet to help them loose any extra weight.
- Exercise is also important, but the right kind of exercise is key. Short walks on grass or sand will help muscle tone without doing much damage to joints. Hard ground should be avoided if possible.
- Diet supplements are available to aid cartilage repair – these include glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate.
- There are also specific diet foods available which have been designed to aid joint repair, help weight loss and contain, omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and glucosamine. These specific diet foods can be purchased from your veterinary clinic.
All of the above are positive steps in managing arthritis, however your dog may need to go on long term pain relief if he/she is still in pain. Please speak to one of the team at Arena if you are worried that your dog is suffering from any of the symptoms mentioned and you suspect arthritis, we will do our best to put a tailored management plan in place to ensure they are feeling years younger in no time.