Pet Care

Arthritis

Senior Golden stares into space

What Is Arthritis?

Canine arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, is characterized by pain and inflammation in a dog’s joints. Arthritis is caused by the breaking down of smooth cartilage that covers and protects the bones that form a joint. Once the bones are exposed, painful wear and tear can occur.

What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis In Dogs?

Dogs who have canine arthritis may:

  • Walk stiffly
  • Limp or favor certain limbs
  • Show stiffness or discomfort when getting up from a lying-down position
  • Display lameness in certain limbs
  • Appear to have stiff, swollen or sore joints
  • Seem to experience pain when touched in certain areas
  • Seem to find certain positions uncomfortable or painful
  • Suffer loss of flexibility in their joints
  • Be hesitant to jump, run or climb stairs

How Is Canine Arthritis Diagnosed?

A veterinarian may conduct a physical exam, take radiographs and perform other diagnostic tests to help determine the cause of your dog’s pain. He or she will also check your dog’s medical history for previous injuries and consider possible inherited conditions.

What Causes Canine Arthritis?

Canine arthritis can occur as a result of:

  • A joint infection
  • Dislocation
  • Trauma
  • An inherited condition, such as hip dysplasia
  • Immune system problems
  • Obesity
  • Ligament, tendon or muscle injury
  • Fracture of bone that involves a joint
  • Aging and natural erosion of cartilage

Note: If a larger dog suffers any injuries or sprains during his growth period, this can cause him to develop arthritis later in life.

Which Dogs Are Prone To Canine Arthritis?

Although certain larger breed dogs such as mastiffs and Great Danes are susceptible to arthritis, the condition can develop in all breeds and mixed breeds as the result of joint infection, dislocation, trauma or family genetics. Elder dogs also often develop arthritis as a result of aging.

Can Canine Arthritis Be Prevented?

Keeping your dog fit with exercise and proper nutrition may, in some cases, help prevent arthritis, or possibly slow its progression once the condition has set in. In fact, if your dog is a larger breed, it's necessary to monitor the type and amount of food given when his bones are still growing. However, arthritic conditions cannot always be predicted or prevented, especially those that are inherited.

How Can Canine Arthritis Be Treated?

Once symptoms of arthritis set in, there is no cure. It’s important for you to work with your veterinarian to create a program to minimize your dog’s pain while keeping him healthy. Some general treatment options may include:

  • Possible use of antibiotics, painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications
  • Possible use of nutritional supplements to help replenish cartilage
  • Healthy diet and regular, low-impact exercise
  • Thorough research of new products on the market that may ease your pet's discomfort
  • Weight loss, if necessary

Note: Please do not give your dog human medication without first checking with your vet.

Are Dogs with Arthritis Able to Exercise?

Generally, dogs with arthritis should engage in daily low-impact exercise such as walking or, if possible, swimming.

How Can I Make My Dog More Comfortable?

If your dog has arthritis, here are a few ways that you can make her more comfortable.

  • Give her soft bedding.
  • Have short, gentle play sessions.
  • Provide her with gentle massages and physical therapy.
  • Place food and water bowls on a low table or crate, or in a raised feeder, to avoid neck and spine strain.
  • Groom the areas of her body that may be hard for her to reach.
  • Buy her a firm, orthopedic foam bed.
  • Get a portable dog ramp to allow her access to the car or other areas where she’ll have to jump or climb.