Canine Arthritis – Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
What is it?
How is it Treated?
Large breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers Giant breeds such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundlands
For years, Tom and his trusty Labrador, Max, had been inseparable, sharing countless adventures in the great outdoors. They’d hiked steep mountains, explored lush forests, and splashed in refreshing streams. But lately, Max had been slowing down. The once-vigorous dog now hesitated to climb the stairs and struggled to rise from his bed. Heartbroken, Tom knew something was amiss, so he took Max to their local veterinarian. After a thorough examination, the vet confirmed that Max was suffering from arthritis, a painful joint condition that affects many dogs.
Osteoarthritis is an age-old condition that affects the body’s ability to move, but don’t let its ancient roots fool you. OA impacts many modern dogs and causes joint pain, inhibiting them from daily activities. With origins stemming from Greek words meaning “bone,” “joint,” and “inflammation,” it becomes clear why this complex issue deserves our attention today more than ever before for all of our furry friends!
Through a comprehensive physical assessment, skilled palpation of the area in question, and various diagnostics such as x-rays or other imaging technologies, OA can be accurately diagnosed.
What is Arthritis Pain in Dogs?
Arthritis is an inflammation of one or more joints, a condition where bones become stiff and painful. In dogs, it usually affects the hips, elbows, shoulders, knees, and spine. Some breeds are prone to developing arthritis, including Poodles, Shih Tzu, Dachshunds, Boxers, Bulldogs, and Bulldogs. Other risk factors include obesity, lack of activity, and old age.
There are several types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage wears away, causing the bone to rub against the bone. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation throughout the body.
The most common form of canine arthritis is osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis primarily affects large-breed dogs and often develops in older animals, especially those over ten years old.
Most dogs will develop some form of arthritis by age eight, but 20 percent of them start showing signs at an earlier age. Several conditions can cause osteoarthritis, including hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament rupture, elbow dysplasia, spinal cord injury, and trauma.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints and causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness. In dogs, RA is also known as chronic progressive polyarthritis (CPP), a less common form of arthritis. The exact cause of RA in dogs is not well understood, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Other types of arthritis include degenerative joint disease, septic arthritis, gouty arthritis, crystal-induced arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Lyme disease arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriatic arthritis, polysaccharide storage myopathy, vasculitis.
What Causes Canine Osteoarthritis?
There are many different causes of arthritis in dogs; some breeds are known to suffer from certain types of arthritis more often than others. For example, hip dysplasia is a hereditary problem that leads to arthritis in some dogs. Other conditions like cruciate ligament rupture, elbow luxation, and spinal stenosis can cause arthritis.
The most common cause is wear and tear in older dogs. As we grow old, our bodies change, and our joints lose flexibility. Overweight dogs tend to suffer more severe forms of arthritis because extra weight stresses the joints. In addition, when a dog is overweight often lacks sufficient activity levels to keep their muscles strong and flexible.
Joint instability is another major cause of arthritis. For example, dogs with hip dysplasia will struggle to move correctly, increasing the risk of injury. Other conditions, like cruciate ligament rupture, can lead to painful and unstable knees.
Inflammation is another common cause of arthritis. Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis affect the entire body, but they are particularly prevalent in large-breed dogs and are also more likely to occur in young dogs.
Arthritis can be triggered by infection. Dogs suffering from Lyme disease may develop arthritis due to the bacteria’s ability to infect the synovial fluid (fluid inside the joints).
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
Arthritis is common in older animals, significantly larger breeds such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers. If you notice any of the following signs, it could mean that your dog may be suffering from Arthritis. If you think your dog has these symptoms ask your veterinarian.
Reluctance to Move
If you notice your dog or cat being reluctant to walk, jump, climb stairs, play fetch, etc., this could be an early sign that they might develop arthritis later on. Some arthritis symptoms are:
A limping dog walks with a noticeable limp or stiffness. This could be due to various conditions such as hip dysplasia, muscle strain, nerve injuries, or bone fractures. Several issues, including joint disease, tendonitis, bony growths, and infections, can cause a limp.
Yelping when Touched
If your dog cries out when touched, it could mean he has arthritis. Dogs can develop arthritis because of injury or disease. Some types of arthritis are hereditary, while others are caused by environmental factors such as diet, exercise, toxins, infections, allergies, and stress.
When dogs are stressed out, it affects their mood and behavior. They might become aggressive towards others, bark excessively, or show signs of stress, such as pacing around the house.
Dogs who have been healthy for years suddenly start acting differently. They might not want to go outside anymore or start chewing furniture or other items. These behaviors could be symptoms of arthritis.
As mentioned earlier, inflammation is a common symptom of arthritis. Swelling occurs when fluids leak into the tissues surrounding the affected area. The swelling usually increases over time, making it difficult for your pet to move.
Arthritis causes pain and loss of mobility in joints. Muscles atrophy when there is less movement of a joint. This happens because muscles are attached to bones and tendons, and muscle fibers shorten and become weaker when there is no movement. When you lose muscle strength, it becomes harder to move the limb.
What Types of Dogs are Predisposed to Arthritis?
Certain dog breeds are predisposed to developing arthritis due to their genetic makeup and physical characteristics. Some of the breeds that are more prone to developing arthritis include:
- Large breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers
- Giant breeds such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundlands
- Overweight dogs
- Dogs with congenital joint disorders such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia
- Dogs with previous joint injuries
- Seniors dogs are also more prone to develop arthritis as a natural consequence of aging.
It’s important to note that any dog can develop arthritis, regardless of breed or size, as the condition is a result of the wear and tear of the joints over time. But these breeds are more prone to develop arthritis, so it’s important to be extra vigilant with their joint health and to consult with a veterinarian if any signs of arthritis arise.
Diagnosis of Arthritis in Dogs
Canine arthritis is typically diagnosed through a physical exam, radiographs (x-rays), and a thorough evaluation of the pet’s history and lifestyle. During the physical exam, your vet will assess things like range of motion, swelling or tenderness in joints, and stability of the affected joints. Radiographs are also used to evaluate joint changes. They may also recommend lab work to assess organ function associated with any long-term medications prescribed for arthritis relief.
In addition to a physical exam, your vet may recommend the following:
- Radiographs (X-ray)
- Bloodwork to check liver and kidney values if medication is to be prescribed.
- Joint fluid analysis to rule out infection or, in some cases, cancer
- Force plate gait analysis, which measures the force exerted between a paw and the ground when walking or standing still
Managing Arthritis in Dogs
If your pet shows symptoms of severe arthritis, you’ll want to ensure they receive proper treatment. Many treatments are available for canine arthritis, and veterinarians often prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce your dog’s pain. Veterinarians may also prescribe natural remedies or nutraceuticals to reduce the progression of osteoarthritis.
Other medications can be used to slow down the progression of the disease and relieve discomfort. Surgery may be necessary to repair damaged joints or replace diseased ones.
Holistic veterinarians recommend taking a holistic approach to treating arthritis in dogs, including addressing the cause of the problem rather than just focusing on symptoms. For example, if your dog has joint issues due to a lack of exercise, consider getting him into a weight training program. In addition, you could give him supplements that promote healthy joints, like glucosamine and chondroitin.
Various treatments are:
Animal Physical Rehabilitation
Many pet owners with dogs or cats with osteoarthritis (OA) find that their animals can benefit from certified small animal physical rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is a comprehensive approach to helping an animal recover from OA, including physical therapy, medication, and diet adjustments. Specific exercises for pets with OA are still being developed, but some common ideas include weight-bearing activities like walking and running; aquatic exercises such as swimming; manipulative therapies such as massage; and pain relief medications like carprofen.
Laser therapy is intensely focused energy that can treat various conditions in the body. It is particularly effective for treating pain and inflammation and preventing or delaying joint degeneration. Laser therapy may also improve walking ability in some cases.
One standard laser treatment used to treat arthritis is photodynamic therapy (PDT). PDT uses a specific laser to damage cells in the target area, producing local inflammation and pain relief.
Acupuncture is believed to help dogs with osteoarthritis by stimulating the body’s natural healing mechanisms. It can reduce inflammation, improve circulation and reduce pain associated with arthritis. Acupuncture may be combined with other treatments to maximize your dog’s benefit, such as medications or physical therapy.
While acupuncture cannot heal arthritic joints, it can significantly relieve pain and improve your pet’s overall mobility. By inserting the thin acupuncture needles into various acupuncture points in your pet’s body, acupuncture can:
- Release endorphins which are the body’s natural pain-relief hormones
- Loosen tight and achy muscles surrounding your pet’s joints
- Improve the blood flow and promote circulation
- Reduce your pet’s dependency or the dose of chronic medications
- Helps reduce inflammation
Adequan is a polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG) injection used to treat osteoarthritis in dogs. It is believed to work by lubricating and cushioning the joint and inhibiting the enzymes that break down cartilage. Adequan is usually given as an intramuscular injection, and the recommended dosage and frequency will vary depending on the size and condition of the dog. Treatment typically involves a series of injections given over several weeks. While Adequan is generally considered safe for dogs, it should not be used in animals with known bleeding disorders or in those receiving anticoagulant therapy. As with any medication, it is essential to consult a veterinarian before starting treatment with Adequan.
Supplements for Treating Arthritis in Dogs
Many different supplements can be given to dogs with arthritis to help them feel better and improve their overall quality of life. Some of the most commonly recommended supplements for treating arthritis in dogs include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids – One study has shown that giving omega-3 fatty acids to dogs with arthritis reduced their symptoms by as much as 67%. Therefore, ensuring your dog gets enough omega-3s through his diet or supplementation is an excellent way to help him feel better overall.
- Glucosamine – Glucosamine is a natural compound that has been shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Some studies have even found it more effective than traditional medications in treating this condition. Therefore, giving your dog glucosamine supplements may be one of the best ways to help him feel better quickly.
- Chondroitin sulfate – Chondroitin sulfate is another natural compound that has been shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Like glucosamine, studies have also found it more effective than traditional medications in treating this condition. Therefore, providing your dog with chondroitin supplements may be one of the best ways to help him feel better quickly.
- Curcuminoid extract – Curcuminoids are compounds found in turmeric and other plants that have been shown to improve inflammation and pain associated with arthritis.
Environmental Support Around Your Home
Environmental support can help dogs with arthritis. It is vital to modify the home to make it easier for your dog to move around. For example:
- Install ramps or steps – Put in ramps or pet steps to help your dog get to its favorite resting spots, like on the couch or bed.
- Raise food and water bowls – Use a small shelf or sturdy box to raise them so your dog can reach them more easily without bending down.
- Orthopedic beds for dogs – Orthopedic beds relieve pressure on the joints and muscles by distributing weight evenly for good support. Even dogs who don’t need orthopedic mattresses for a disorder can benefit from the supportive comfort of an orthopedic bed. Providing a supportive place to rest can help your best friend feel better and potentially help prevent degeneration and injuries.
- Add carpeting for better traction – Consider putting in carpeting or secure rugs to help your dog gain traction and stay steady on their feet.
- Assist your dog – Help your dog manage by carrying your pup up the stairs or lifting them into the car whenever possible.
Prevention for Arthritis in Dogs
There are many different types of arthritis, and each requires a slightly different treatment plan. However, there are several things you can do to help manage symptoms. These include:
- Exercise – Regular walks and play sessions will help maintain muscle strength, mobility, and fitness. If possible, try to limit sedentary activities such as watching TV and playing computer games.
- Diet – A well-balanced diet rich in protein and omega fatty acids will support joint health. Avoiding foods high in sugar and starch will reduce inflammation.
- Lifestyle – Limit stress by keeping your dog active and busy. Try to keep his environment clean and free of toxins.
- Vaccinations – Make sure your dog gets all required vaccinations.
- Supplements – Consider using glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to help build up cartilage and strengthen joints.
Dog Breeds That Can Benefit From Joint Supplements as Puppies
In breeds that have the potential for joint disease, it is recommended to start joint supplements. These breeds are most commonly at risk for joint issues:
- Hip and knee: Any toy to giant breed dog can be affected, but these are the most common:
- Toy breeds: Miniature Poodles, Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, Pugs (knee), and Yorkshire Terriers
- Medium to large breeds: American Staffordshire Terrier, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, American Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, German Shepherds, Mastiffs
- Giant breeds: Great Danes, St. Bernards
- Elbow (tends to be breed-specific): English Bulldogs, Welsh Corgis, Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers
- Shoulder (tends to be breed-specific): Labradors and Golden Retrievers
Frequently Asked Questions
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