What is osteoarthritis in Dogs?
Osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease) is the most common form of “arthritis” (which means joint inflammation). It mainly affects the cartilage which is the slippery tissue over the end of the bone in the joint. In the healthy dog, this allows the bones to glide over each other, & acts as a shock absorber. There are no nerves in cartilage, so normal joint movement is painful. When arthritis develops this slippery layer breaks down & wears away. There are however nerves in the bones & when the bones of the joints then rub together this leads to pain, swelling, & loss of motion. Eventually the bone may lose it’s shape. Bony spurs (osteophytes) & thickening of the bone may result. Pieces of bone & cartilage may break off causing more pain & inflammation.
What causes it?
Injury & trauma to the joint, wear & tear, congenital joint problem, recurrent injury to the joint & obesity (which causes an excessive load on the joints).
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms of arthritis include:
- Difficulty walking
- Avoiding using the affected joint.
- Stiff gait.
- Swollen/hot joints
- Decrease in activity
- Pain in specific areas you touch
These symptoms may be exacerbated in during cold or wet weather conditions.
How is it diagnosed?
Your vet will do a physical exam of your dog & ask about it’s history. Tests he may wish to perform include;
- Examination of the joint fluid.
Who’s affected by osteoarthritis in Dogs?
It is most commonly seen in large breeds of dogs, overweight or older dogs.
How is it treated?
Early diagnosis of osteoarthritis important in helping minimise pain & further damage to the affected joint(s).
If the dog is overweight, careful weight loss & increased exercise will be necessary.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed. Reducing inflammation in the joint can relieve pain & increase mobility.
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Glucosamine is a major component of cartilage. Chondroitin enhances the formation of cartilage and inhibits enzymes in the joint, which tend to break down cartilage.
- Surgery: Arthrodesis is sometimes recommended. This involves fusion of the joint surfaces. Reconstructive procedures may be performed if the cause of the osteoarthritis is caused by anatomic defects in the joint(s).
Providing warmth to the affected area. This may include the use of a heating pad where your dog sleeps. It’s important to ensure your dog’s bedding is in a warm & draft free spot.
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