Osteoarthritis is a common joint disease in dogs and can occur in any breed. The prevalence of this condition has increased significantly in the past decade. According to a recent report by Banfield Pet Hospital, osteoarthritis in dogs increased by 66%, and that in cats increased by 150% in the past 10 years.
It’s also a condition that doesn’t just affect older dogs but can affect any canine. This means that even young dogs will face the challenges associated with osteoarthritis if they have it. The good news is there are plenty of treatments available for this condition. If you suspect your dog has arthritis, here’s what you need to know about how it affects them and what treatment options are available.
What Is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?
Osteoarthritis, or OA, is a non-contagious, degenerative joint disease. Dogs of all ages can get OA, but it’s most common in older dogs carrying heavy bodies for years.
In humans and many animals, bones grow with cartilage on their ends. This cartilage is a cushion between joints, so they don’t grind together when moving them. In dogs with osteoarthritis, this cartilage wears away. This is what causes pain when you try to move your own body.
The bone rubs up against itself while they walk or run around doing normal doggy activities like chasing squirrels or rolling in poo piles outside the park. It starts breaking down faster than new bone can form around those areas where there was once thickened cartilage, protecting them from damage. The bones start getting thinner instead of thicker like they used to be when they were younger.
Causes of Dog Arthritis
The causes of arthritis in dogs can be the same as those that cause it in humans. Canine hip dysplasia, traumatic injuries, and infections are all common causes of osteoarthritis in dogs.
If you have a growing puppy with hip dysplasia or are considering getting a purebred dog with known genetic health problems like this one, please consider adopting it from your local shelter instead.
Besides the common causes, a few risk factors can increase the chances of OA in dogs. According to a study published in the Frontiers journal, there are both modifiable and unmodifiable risk factors. The modifiable factors can be managed, including neuter status and weight. The unmodifiable factors are sex, breed, and age.
Symptoms of Dog Arthritis
If your dog is experiencing any of the following symptoms, he or she may have arthritis:
- A lack of energy
- Inability to jump or climb stairs
- Inability to run
- Inability to walk on slippery and uneven surfaces
- Difficulty jumping up onto furniture and into cars
Treating Osteoarthritis in Dogs
Treating osteoarthritis in dogs can be as simple as keeping your pet active or involve more drastic measures such as surgery. If your dog is showing signs of pain, you should speak with your veterinarian about how to treat them.
Many medications can be used to treat osteoarthritis in dogs. The most common include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): ibuprofen, aspirin, Rimadyl, and others. These drugs help relieve pain. Vets have trusted medication like Rimadyl for several years for treating OA pain. Such drugs help relieve pain for increased activity, preserve muscle strength, and regain function. Rimadyl for dogs can help bring back your furry friend to its playful nature. This can help with increasing exercise and physical activities to boost health.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin: These are supplements that may improve joint function by preventing cartilage breakdown and reducing inflammation. They’re generally safe but should not be given to pregnant or nursing dogs.
Exercise for Treating Osteoarthritis in Dogs
Your dog’s walk will change after osteoarthritis. According to a study published in the BMC Veterinary Research journal, the walks become slower, shorter, and sadder. As a result, even you may not like going for a different walk. This can impact your physical activity and health, too. However, you can change the exercise according to your pet’s condition for better results.
Your dog’s fitness level is a factor in determining how much exercise he or she should get. If your dog is overweight, start walking him or her for shorter distances at a slower pace. As the dog gets healthier, increase the length and speed of walks.
Dogs with osteoarthritis can benefit from regular exercise as it improves their overall health and quality of life. A variety of activities are suitable for dogs with arthritis. These activities include the following:
- Leash walking
- Playing fetch with soft balls or Frisbees
- Playing chase games like hide-and-seek indoors or outdoors
- Playtime using toys like tug toys or balls that bounce erratically when thrown on hard surfaces such as concrete floors
All these activities will help to keep your doggy active and engaged.
Diet for Treating Osteoarthritis in Dogs
The diet you feed your dog is vital for treating osteoarthritis. You can’t just feed them any old food. They need to eat a healthy diet appropriate for their age and weight.
A good quality diet will provide the necessary nutrients to assist in the healing process, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, both of which are critical components of cartilage. Additionally, a high-protein diet can help reduce joint inflammation by maintaining muscle mass around the joints.
You should talk with your vet about what diet would be best for your dog’s condition before making any changes to his current food schedule. A study published on the NCBI website examines the efficacy of dietary supplements in dogs with OA. The results show that dietary supplements can help relieve pain and improve the dog’s condition.
Surgery for Treating Osteoarthritis in Dogs
If your dog’s arthritis is severe, a vet may recommend surgery. This is the last resort, which can be expensive and painful for you and your dog. It is only recommended when other treatments have failed to help your dog. Even then, the results are generally mixed.
Surgery usually involves removing cartilage from a joint so it can move more quickly. However, this may not always be successful, significantly if the arthritic joint has been damaged over time by frequent use or trauma. Your vet may also recommend hyaluronic acid injections into an arthritic joint to alleviate pain until it heals.
Dog arthritis can be a complex condition to deal with. It’s essential to recognize the signs of dog arthritis and not ignore them, as this will only worsen matters for your pet. If you suspect that your dog has arthritis, it’s essential to have them checked out by a vet and find a treatment plan that works for you both.