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What You Need to Know About Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative condition in dogs that becomes more severe over time. There's no cure for this painful condition, however, our Memphis vets can provide treatments that may help manage symptoms and allow your dog to enjoy a good quality of life as they age.

Osteoarthritis In Dogs

So, what is osteoarthritis in dogs? Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis diagnosed in dogs. It is a painful 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.

Signs That Your Dog May Have Osteoarthritis

Painful joints tend to be the most obvious osteoarthritis symptom in dogs. However, joint discomfort can lead to a number of other tell-tail signs. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs include:

  • Pain, stiffness, and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
  • Reluctance to stand 
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Unusual aggression, whining, or irritability
  • Licking at joints
  • Slow shuffling walk

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis can be seen in dogs of any breed or size but it is most often diagnosed in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Rottweilers, and giant breeds. 

The actual cause of osteoarthritis is largely unknown but this condition is often associated with underlying issues such as an injury due to trauma, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or dislocations of the shoulder or knee.

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

Sadly this uncomfortable condition cannot be reversed or cured. That said, successful treatment of this condition reduces the 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 continue to age.

Often a number of treatments will be used together to relieve your dog's pain and help to restore 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

Although it may seem counterintuitive exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis. In some cases it may be necessary to cut back on exercise when your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis however staying mobile will help your dog to 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.

Diet

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight will be a key element of their treatment for osteoarthritis. Increased weight puts increased stress on your dog's joints so keeping weight at a healthy level will help to minimize 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.

Physiotherapy for dogs with osteoarthritis may include one or more of the following treatments: therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage, combined with conventional treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications. 

Ask your vet if there is a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area

Surgery

If your dog's joint damage is severe your veterinarian may recommend surgery to help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Surgery may be performed to remove bone fragments that are aggravating the condition or to replace the affected joints. 

The Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

With effective long-term pain management and a little additional care, your dog may be able to enjoy a long and happy life even with osteoarthritis. Speak to your vet to learn more about managing your pup's joint pain, and how you can help your dog to enjoy 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. 

If your dog is exhibiting signs that they may be suffering from osteoarthritis contact our Memphis vets right away to book an examination for your pup.

3 Irish Wolfhounds outside in a meadow. Giant breeds often suffer from osteoarthritis. Southeast Memphis Vet

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