Dog Arthritis, which is also referred to as degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis, is defined as inflammation of the joints. Recent research indicates radiographic lesions of arthritis are apparent in 95% of dogs at age two, and 99% of people at age 35, regardless of whether or not visible signs are apparent. 20 percent or one out of every five dogs two years of age and older are afflicted. The number of dogs affected doubles after age seven. Although arthritis is more common in large dogs, small dogs and cats (and even horses) also suffer.
What is Canine Arthritis
Canine arthritis is a painful, progressive condition that destroys the cartilage and connective tissue, which normally act as a cushion and absorb shock between bones and joints. It is characterized by loss of the smooth cartilage that covers and protects the ends of the bones in movable joints. Since cartilage has no nerves, when it rubs against the cartilage of another bone there is no pain. On the other hand, bones do have nerves so once the cartilage wears away, the exposed bone rubs against the other bone in the joint. Now that causes pain and it hurts. The level of pain increases as the disease gets worse and shows signs of progress.
Causes of Canine Arthritis
Arthritis in dogs can result from aging and everyday wear and tear. Pets can be genetically prone because of a hereditary condition such as dysplasia, or abnormal growth and malformation of the hips or elbows. Arthritis can occur secondary to an injury such as a broken pelvic bone, a fracture involving a joint or a damaged cruciate ligament in the knee.
Signs of Dog Arthritis
The signs of arthritis vary depending on exactly which joint or joints are affected, the age of the pet and the severity of the disease. Arthritis may occur due to hereditary with a genetic link and/ or may occur secondarily as a result of the natural aging process, excessive body weight load on the joints and/or trauma. In most cases, arthritis results from a combination of these factors. An alteration of your pet’s normal gait is usually visible because pets naturally place extra weight on the unaffected leg(s) to lessen the pain on the affected leg.
When arthritis affects your dog’s hips, the condition is referred to as hip dysplasia, which is classic in German Shepards. In this case, the muscles on the afflicted leg also often atrophy or become smaller in size because the dog uses it less or puts less weight on it. Often the muscles of the chest and shoulders actually become larger in size as the dog naturally puts more weight on his front legs to support his body.
Early signs are subtle and may be easily misinterpreted as slowing down due to old age aches and pains when in reality many if not most of these pets are suffering from arthritis. Initially, pets might be a little stiff in the morning, find it difficult to stand up after lying down and hesitate before beginning to walk. Advanced signs include limping, lameness, decreased activity, stiffness, and reluctance to stand.
Many dogs have a hard time climbing stairs and are unable to jump up into your car or up onto your bed. In addition to losing interest in running around the back yard and playing, owners may notice changes in their pet’s appetite and behavior. Rather than being active family members, some dogs prefer to be left alone and may hide in corners or just sleep the day away under a table. Depending on the amount of pain, some dogs eat less, may lick and/or bite at the painful area and seek out warm, soft places to sleep.
Diagnosis of Arthritis
The first step to a diagnosis involves a visit to your vet and a complete examination. Your veterinarian will discuss signs, your pet’s history, perform a variety of physical limb and joint manipulative tests and take x-rays to pinpoint the location and severity of the disease.
Treatment Options for Arthritis
Treatments may be surgical, medical and/or nutritional depending on the exact condition.
Management of Arthritis
Medical management, weight control, and moderate exercise allow many pets to live a relatively pain-free life. Medical management traditionally consisted of two types of drugs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are referred to as NSAID’s. NSAID’s include prescription medications including Rimadyl, Ectogesic (Rimadyl and Ectogesic should not be used in cats) Deramax and Meticam. Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs include steroids such as prednisone, prednisolone, and azium. Both classes of drugs are generally effective to relieve pain but can carry serious side effects. Steroids are often considered a last resort in many chronic canine arthritis cases.
New, natural remedies have proven to offer similar benefits without the risks. Moderate exercise helps maintain joint mobility and muscle strength for joint support. Weight control helps reduce the burden of excess soft tissue the joints must support.
Today the marketplace offers a wide variety of natural, nutritional products for pets that need relief from arthritic pain. Together these products help to minimize arthritis pain and inflammation while increasing joint lubrication and flexibility and enhancing the joints ability to absorb shock. Because age, breed, diet, lifestyle, injury and stress can affect the health and function of joints in different ways, your veterinarian will help you determined the best product for your pet’s condition. The correct and consistent administration is essential for optimum results.
Effective, natural, over the counter pet arthritis remedies include various combinations of Glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Chondroitin sulfate, Hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. These nutrients support joint function and connective tissue health and many are now formulated specifically for pets as tasty, chewable tablets for dogs, and flavored encapsulated powders for cats, given daily according to body weight.
Adequan is a polysulfated glycosaminoglycan derived from the windpipe cartilage of cattle. It is available as an injection through veterinarians.
- TIP: Avoid aspirin in dogs and: it can cause stomach or gastric ulcers in dogs.
- TIP: Add a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil to your pet’s food or cook your pet’s meals in olive oil. It smells good, tastes great, adds flavor and is a wonderful source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
- TIP: Keeping your pet lean helps avoid excess joint stress and reduces the risk of developing arthritis.
- TIP: Acupuncture is an option which offers pets various degrees of arthritis pain relief. The relief is temporary in most cases.
Proper exercise is wonderful physical therapy for arthritic joints and it reduces the risk of permanent disability due to arthritis by 33 percent. Exercise helps maintain your pet’s muscle mass which supports his joints. Massage, gentle flexion, and extension of joints and swimming are also very beneficial. Treatment for the joint disease often involves a combination of therapies and your vet will help you decide which options are best for your dog.