Osteoarthritis in dogs
Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common degenerative joint disease (DJD). Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs and it is estimated that as many as a quarter of the dog population is affected. It is a chronic, permanent, long-term deterioration characterized by loss of articular cartilage that covers and protects the ends of bones in most joints of the body. In contrast to humans, OA in dogs most commonly occurs secondarily due to developmental orthopedic disease. The joints that are most commonly affected are the hip, stifle, and elbow.
Contributing factors to OA include genetics, age, bodyweight, obesity, gender, exercise and diet. It is a progressive disease and continues to worsen with time, but with early discovery and right treatment many dogs can live comfortably for years following diagnosis. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis and other forms of degenerative bone diseases are primarily genetic so there are no preventative measures you can take to protect your dog.
There is no known cause for primary degenerative joint disease. However, there is a wide variety of causes for secondary DJD, such as trauma, abnormal wear on joints and cartilage, or a congenital defect present at birth such as an improperly formed hip. Obesity is another factor for DJD, as it increases stress on joints. The less weight your dog carries, the less stress it’ll be putting on its delicate skeletal system. Also, dogs with disorders such as diabetes, prolonged steroid treatment, and hyperlaxity (an excessive looseness of the joints) may also be at higher risk for DJD. Older dogs are at the highest risk.
Signs of osteoarthritis are pain when manipulating the affected area and signs of discomfort. If the dog is suffering from OA, you can expect decrease in activity, reluctance to exercise, play, run, signs of pain or soreness, changing behavior, swelling or pain in the joints, inability to jump, inability to rise (especially after sleeping or resting), stiffness, limping, etc.
Some breeds are more likely to suffer from OA, especially as they get older. Larger breeds are more susceptible to different forms of skeletal disease than smaller dogs. These inherited conditions are commonly seen in German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds, Rottweilers, Saint Bernards… Pugs and French Bulldogs are smaller breeds that suffer from these conditions.
Diagnosis of OA is usually made by a combination of a physical exam and imaging modalities, such as X-rays. Initially physical exam will focus on the affected joint or joints. By palpation of the limbs the veterinarian can find affected area because the dog will respond to pain. If surgery is performed, the recovery of those dogs is usually very good especially with total joint replacement surgery as the diseased joint is completely removed and replaced.
Today, with all the technology, supplements, drugs and advanced medical developments, treatment for dog osteoarthritis has improved a great deal. The important thing to know is that this is an inherited condition for which there is no cure, but a number of products available these days can ease the dog’s symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. The most important thing is to pay close attention to your dog’s health so the OA can be caught early.
When a dog is diagnosed with OA, the veterinarian will develop a medical management system using a combination of modalities to treat your pet in order to make it as comfortable as possible. These modalities includes a special diet and exercise regimen, drugs, supplements, massaging techniques and simple physical therapy ensuring good quality of life for your dog. Since osteoarthritis can be painful, painkillers are usually prescribed.
The surgical procedure is indicated when conservative treatment is shown to be unsuccessful. The primary goal of surgical treatment is to relieve pain and inflammation and to maintain the joint function.
World Dog Finder team