Canine Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

canine arthritis

Arthritis is common in dogs as it is in humans. For pet parents, it is painful to see their pet having difficulty getting up or moving around due to this condition. While there’s no cure for arthritis, there is a way to manage the pain brought about by this illness.

Before we discuss pain management for arthritis, let’s talk about what it is first and its symptoms.

What Is Canine Arthritis?

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Old-age arthritis or osteoarthritis is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the joint due to the deterioration of the patient’s cartilage. Also called degenerative joint disease (DJD), osteoarthritis can be caused by different factors including age, repetitive stress, injury, or disease. In a pet with a healthy joint, their cartilage acts as a cushion for the joint to move as smoothly as possible. But in a pet with osteoarthritis, this cushion begins to break down. This loss of cushion causes them to feel extreme pain every time they try to move around. This also causes inflammation and development of bone spurs or osteophytes. Large breeds and senior dogs are the most at risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Many things can cause arthritis in dogs. For one, it can be the result of infectious diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus and Lyme disease. Genetic conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia can also result in joint problems. Obesity is also another cause of canine arthritis, which, unlike others, can be prevented. If the problem’s managed, overweight dogs can be saved from other problems like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. 

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Signs and Symptoms of Canine Arthritis

Canine arthritis is, most of the time, difficult to detect, especially if it’s in its early stages. It is up to the owner to monitor their pet for symptoms, especially if they own middle-aged to senior pets. Here are the signs to look out for when monitoring your pet for osteoarthritis:

  • Difficulty getting up or moving around
  • Reluctance to play, jump, or run
  • Lameness
  • Stiffness
  • Feeling pain when petted or touched
  • Loss of muscle mass over the limbs and spine
  • Weight gain
  • Having difficulty posturing to urinate or defecate
  • Less willing to walk or exercise

Pain Management

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Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease, which means there is no known cure for it. The best thing a pet parent can do is help their pet manage the pain, decrease inflammation, improve quality of life, and slow the progression of the disease. 

Here’s how:

Weight control

Excess weight on damaged joints will not only cause pain, but will also speed up cartilage breakdown, so it is important for pet owners to help their furry buddies maintain a healthy weight. Start a healthy diet, but before you do so, it pays to pay your vet a visit to help you come up with a meal plan that will work best for your pet.

Joint Supplements

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Having your dog take joint supplements will help reduce inflammation, promote healing, and increase water retention in the cartilage. Two of the most common joint supplements given to dogs are glucosamine and chondroitin. Green-lipped mussel or GLM is another joint supplement proven to be effective in helping both humans and canines deal with the pain caused by osteoarthritis. GLM is anti-inflammatory and helps preserve joint function. It also has omega-3 fatty acids, glycosaminoglycans, and antioxidants—nutrients needed by pets with arthritis.

NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs like carprofen, meloxicam, deracoxib, and ketoprofen are known to be helpful in pain control. These also help decrease inflammation in joints. NSAIDs, however, can have significant side effects, so it is important that you consult your vet first before introducing them to your pet. They will discuss with you the risks and benefits of NSAID therapy and will recommend regular blood work to keep an eye on your dog’s health while undergoing NSAID therapy.

Activity modification

Imposing limitations on activities like running and jumping can help your dog manage the pain caused by osteoarthritis and reduce inflammation. Settling for more controlled activities like leash walks is highly recommended. Low-impact consistent exercise is also advisable to help build the muscle around the joints.

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