Arthritis is one of the most common ailments affecting middle aged to senior dogs and cats. It can be a source of chronic pain and negatively affect their quality of life. Also known as degenerative joint disease, arthritis occurs when a joint is unstable causing the bones to move abnormally within the joint. Cartilage lines the joints acting as a barrier between bones. Over time this abnormal movement erodes the cartilage and bone begins rubbing against bone creating chronic inflammation and pain.
Arthritic dogs experience varying degrees of stiffness, soreness, lameness and pain in one or more affected joints. They feel worse when they get up in the morning or try to stand after taking a nap. Cold, damp weather can increase their discomfort. Because arthritis is almost always irreversible, most arthritic dogs get more painful as time passes. In severe cases, this condition can become debilitating and even crippling.
How do I know if my dog will develop arthritis?
There is no general breed or gender predisposition that increases a dog’s chance of developing arthritis, although this disease most commonly affects aging and older animals. However, breeds that are predisposed to elbow osteochondrosis and dysplasia (Labrador Retrievers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Rottweilers, others), hip dysplasia (lots of breeds), patellar luxation (small toy breeds) or cranial cruciate ligament tear or rupture (many breeds) do have an increased chance of developing degenerative arthritis secondary to those underlying conditions. Large and giant breed dogs like Labrador retrievers and German Shepherds can have a genetic predisposition to develop joint disease in their hips and elbows. Start your puppy off right by feeding a large breed puppy food specifically designed to make sure your pet receives the correct nutritional balance so his bones and joints develop at an appropriate rate. If growth occurs too quickly then the joints may form abnormally resulting in joint disease.
Overweight animals regardless of age, gender, or breed have a higher risk of developing arthritis due to increased stress on joints.
What signs should I look for?
1. Intermittent lameness
2. Reluctance to rise or move
3. Stiffness (especially after vigorous exercise or prolonged periods of rest; “bunny-hopping” gait)
4. Swollen joints; may be warm and tender
5. Visible joint deformities
6. Painful joints (when touched/palpated or moved)
7. Prolonged periods of rest (sleeps more than usual)
8. Exercise intolerance; disinterest in physical activity
9. Weight gain
13. Aggression when joints are touched
14. Appetite loss
15. Abnormal stance when walking (pelvis tucked under; using hind legs with exaggerated care)
What can I do to help my pet?
The goals of treating arthritis are to relieve pain, improve mechanical joint function, slow progression of the disease and stimulate the body’s ability to repair affected joints, if possible. Surgery is always a last resort but there are non surgical options in the form of medication & supplements that can help increase your pet's quality of life & decrease their discomfort.
3. Glucosamine supplement
In addition, you can also
1. Decrease food for weight loss
2. Increase LOW IMPACT controlled activity (such as wading pools or swimming) to condition joints & promote healthy muscle delaying muscle atrophy.
3. Passive motion of joint exercise at home (see video below for instruction)