What Is Arthritis And Why Does It Hurt?
Canine osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative joint disease that affects both soft tissues and bones in a joint. It is characterized by loss of smooth cartilage that covers and protects the ends of the bones in movable (called synovial) joints. Cartilage has no nerves, so when it touches cartilage in another bone, no pain occurs. But when cartilage wears away, then bone is exposed, and bone does have nerves, so when two bone ends touch, pain and inflammation occur.
Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition, meaning it will continue to get worse over time and can affect any joint in the body, but the most commonly affected are the:
- Stifle (Knee)
- Hock (Ankle)
- Carpus (Wrist)
- Intervertebral Joints Of The Spine
What Causes Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis happens because of wear and tear or abnormal stress on a normal joint, including from injury, being overweight, and engaging in activities that require constant twisting and turning, such as Frisbee playing. Osteoarthritis can also result from normal stress on an abnormal joint, such as normal activities in a dog that is predisposed to developing hip or elbow problems.
Which Dogs Are At Risk Of Developing Arthritis?
Large breed dogs (ie: Labrador), dog with certain body shapes (ie: Dachshund), toy breed dogs with abnormal knee joints, and dogs with very active “jobs” (ie: hunting, search and rescue, drug detection) are at greater risk. Also, some breeds are prone to develop degenerative joint disease at a very young age (as young as 6-8 months) so ask us if your dog fits into that category. Finally, if your dog injures or fractures a joint or ruptures an anterior cruciate ligament, there is a greater chance that osteoarthritis will develop.
What Are The Signs Of Arthritis?
The signs can vary according to your dog’s age, which joints are involved and how severely they are involved. Some signs are very subtle, including a slight change in the amount of activity your dog normally endures:
- Reluctance to walk, run, climb stairs, jump or play
- Abnormal stance or gait
- Decreased activity
- Difficulty rising from a resting position
- Whimpering in pain or flattening the ears when an affected area is touched
- Acting aggressive or withdrawn
- Incessant licking of a painful joint
How Can Arthritis Pain Be Managed?
Management involves a treatment program designed to improve your dog’s physical and mental health. Young or old, all dogs can improve by following these recommendations:
- Weight reduction: Modify your dog’s diet, eliminating treats, and following a weight loss program can help put less stress on joints
- Controlled exercise: Leash walking, jogging, swimming, and low impact exercise should be followed and all strenuous exercise stopped.
- Inflammation control: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents can manage pain and decrease inflammation. We recommend Rimadyl or Etodolac. Ask us for more imformation if you have any questions about these products or would like a prescription for your pet.
- Pain Management: We often prescribe additional pain medication to help your pet cope with the discomfort associated with this crippling condition.
- Joint Supplements: Use of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate is proofing to be beneficial in alleviating signs of joint pain.