Osteoarthritis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Diagnosis

Osteoarthritis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Diagnosis

About Osteoarthritis in dogs

Rather widespread among people, especially after a certain age, osteoarthritis can also occur in dogs. Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease which means it will slowly worsen over time. It is a degenerative inflammatory disease that affects the functioning of the joints and overall joint health. This ailment is more widespread in older and large dogs with a heavier weight. Although most cases of osteoarthritis in dogs occur after a certain age due to the animal’s aging, it can also occur due to a bill or a joint anomaly (hip dysplasia). Joints join the bones and depending on where they are located in the body. They will be used more or less.

Logically, it is the joints that have the most movement that will wear out the fastest. There are no absolute figures, but in general, dogs can begin to suffer some discomfort from osteoarthritis from the age of 12 years for small breeds and 8 years for large breeds. Many dog ​​owners suffer from seeing their friend hurt by osteoarthritis and other ailments of age, but fortunately, there are certain ways to help them cope in the best possible way.

Osteoarthritis Causes

Osteoarthritis can appear in one or more joints, both in the extremities as in the spine. The affected joints are usually the most overstressed, such as the knees, elbows, shoulders, and hips. This joint disease can appear at any age, but it is more common in older dogs. It is a common pathology in some breeds with genetic joint diseases, such as elbow dysplasia or hip dysplasia, and small breeds are no exception. The reasons that trigger osteoarthritis are very diverse:

Osteoarthritis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Diagnosis
  • Overloading or improper charging due to the sport, work, or being overweight.
  • Trauma such as sprains, strains, or bone fractures.
  • Joint inflammation caused by infections such as Lyme disease or canine ehrlichiosis.
  • Misalignment or malformations of the extremities as with hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.

Osteoarthritis is, mainly, a disease of the articular cartilage. As a consequence of the reasons mentioned above, the cartilage becomes overloaded and damaged. Also, it loses elasticity, wears and tears occur on its surface. The cartilage becomes thinner and rougher. Since cartilage reduces its cushioning capacity, the joint capsule ends up mitigating shocks. This overexertion can end up damaging the capsule and causing inflammation, thickening, and stiffness.

Likewise, the synovial membrane, the inner lining of the joint capsule, and the area of ​​synovial fluid production can be irritated. Irritation of the synovial membrane can cause a decrease or change in the production of synovial fluid so that its lubricating properties in the joint are reduced, and friction intensifies. Also, as the joint fluid composition has altered, the cartilage can no longer receive nutrients for its generation and repair.

The bone below the cartilage will expand and begin to produce bony growths that will protrude beyond the joint space, damaging and degrading more cartilaginous material. Unlike cartilage, bone tissue is sensitive to pain, so this overload of the bone can cause severe discomfort. Orthopedic beds and mattresses are an excellent option to relieve pain and take care of the joints to prevent the progression of the disease.

Osteoarthritis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Diagnosis

Symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs

At first, people usually notice that the dog has trouble getting up in the morning or that it moves stiffly or limps after a long period of rest. After some time on the move, these symptoms subside, and the dog walks. Often, the signs of osteoarthritis are not very obvious: the dog stops walking or turns around during walks, does not want to jump to get into the car, or licks one of its limbs several times.

Due to joint pain caused by osteoarthritis, dogs try to avoid straining. This causes the muscle mass of the affected limbs to be reduced and others to be loaded. However, due to the weakening of the muscles, the discomfort continues to increase, as does the joint effort. Also, a thickening of the joint may be felt.

A dog that limps and stops before jumping, climbing stairs, or tries to avoid these types of situations could be a dog suffering from osteoarthritis. It is usually most noticeable in the morning when the joints are at rest and cold. It may improve a little throughout the day as the dog moves around. Osteoarthritis in dogs evolves through outbreaks, becoming more frequent and more painful as time progresses.

Many times we observe that older dogs have longer nails. This is because to relieve pain. They tend to use or lean less on the sore limb. Some dogs will be so listless with pain that they will even lose the desire to go out to play or eat. If we want to manipulate our dog’s joints to see if he has any problems with them, we will have to do it very carefully. To avoid hurting him, of course, and even dogs that do not usually show aggression could react badly to pain and bite.

When osteoarthritis is due to aging, it isn’t easy to prevent it. But in certain dogs, it is important to be vigilant to detect early abnormalities in the joints that could lead to osteoarthritis. This is the case, for example, of hip dysplasia that affects large dog breeds such as the Labrador, the Rottweiller, or the Golden Retriever. In these cases, corrective surgery can be performed to avoid having serious problems later on. This surgery aims to realign the affected joints and promote joint health.

Being overweight is an aggravating factor in osteoarthritis as it accelerates the wear and tears on the joints; so it is important to maintain your dog at a healthy weight. Also, as they age, dogs tend to be less physically active, leading to fattening. It is important to feed our dog well and monitor its weight for this and many other reasons.

Cold and humidity are two great enemies of dogs with osteoarthritis. Therefore, to make their pain worse, we will always offer them a comfortable temperature and a protected place to sleep.

Differences between arthritis and osteoarthritis in dogs

Many times we tend to confuse these two ailments when, in reality, they are quite different. Arthritis is an inflammatory disease that can occur due to immunological, post-traumatic, or infectious disorders. In cases of arthritis, the synovium, the layer that lines the body’s joints, is damaged. It can occur at any stage of life. Osteoarthritis is also an inflammatory but degenerative disease, unlike arthritis.

It usually occurs due to old age and wears and tear on the joints. There is a loss of cartilage that allows the mobility of the bones in the joints. These end up rubbing and wearing, causing pain. Although dogs can be affected by both diseases, osteoarthritis is much more common as it occurs with age.

Osteoarthritis Diagnosis

The information provided by the person who has the dog, the clinical symptoms, the age, and the dog breed, may be enough for the veterinarian to suspect that he has osteoarthritis. With the help of a lameness test and an accurate evaluation of the dog’s movements, the damaged joint is usually identified. Diagnostic imaging such as x-rays, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as well as, arthrocentesis can help rule out other diseases and assess the severity of osteoarthritis.


Osteoarthritis Treatment

Since osteoarthritis cannot be cured, its treatment aims to reduce pain and slow down the changes. The causes of osteoarthritis, as far as possible, must be found and remedied. Misalignments, joint injuries, and fractures must be treated surgically. To promote the health of the dog and prevent the advance of the disease, the following measures can be taken:

  • Losing weight: being overweight can contribute to overloading the joints, accelerating their wear and tear.
  • Follow a low-load exercise program: low-impact physical activities for the joints, such as swimming or walking steadily.
  • Physiotherapy: reduction of stiffness and increase in muscles through adapted movement and training.
  • Food and food supplements: with chondroitin, glucosamine, green-lipped mussel, and omega-3 oils to strengthen the joints
  • Medications: there are various active substances to treat joint pain and inflammation. Depending on the severity of the disease, the vet will choose the most suitable drugs.
  • Other treatment options include radiation, shock wave therapy, cell therapy, and surgical procedures such as arthrodesis or the use of an artificial joint.

Treatments for osteoarthritis in dogs are purely palliative. They serve to relieve pain and not cure it. However, if taken in time, they can help slow the progress of osteoarthritis. They are as useful as necessary since they allow a significant improvement in the quality of life of the dog. If we look at the drug side, what veterinarians usually prescribe are corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Some pills called chondroprotective slow down the aging of the joints without presenting the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Physiotherapy and acupuncture are other interesting clues to relieve osteoarthritis in dogs. Although they would serve as complementary treatments, the physiotherapist’s smooth and well-thought-out movements will favor the regeneration of cartilage in certain joints, helping our dog feel well for longer.

There are many accessories on the market, such as supports or protectors, to alleviate the ailments caused by osteoarthritis in dogs. It is important not to buy them on our own without first consulting with canine health professionals. We also find beds and mattresses adapted to older dogs. These so-called orthopedic mattresses are usually expensive, but it is worth buying one. They offer a better rest for our dog that will translate into a better quality of life.

Osteoarthritis Prognosis

Often, with the help of physiotherapists, adapted physical activity, medications, and the adoption of other measures, it is possible to reduce the progression of osteoarthritis and, in this way, maintain the quality of life of the dog. It is essential to start treatment at an early stage. In cases of high-grade joint disorders and severe pain, it may be appropriate to intervene surgically with arthrodesis or use a joint prosthesis.

Osteoarthritis Prevention

People can help prevent osteoarthritis in their dogs from the puppy stage. The prevention of obesity is one of the main measures to avoid osteoarthritis. Likewise, it should be offered food adapted to its needs with all the essential vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and amino acids for the puppy to achieve its ideal weight.

On the other hand, when choosing the dog with whom you are going to share your life, find out if its parents are affected by one of the most common joint diseases such as elbow dysplasia or hip dysplasia. For the joints to develop well during the growth phase, overexertion such as climbing stairs, jumping to get in or out of the car, or taking very long walks should be avoided. The outings with your puppy or senior dog should be short but more frequent.

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