The most common form of canine arthritis is Osteoarthritis (OA). Osteoarthritis is also one of the most common causes of lameness in dogs. It is caused by a deterioration of joint cartilage, followed by pain and loss of range of motion of the joint. The hips may be the most commonly affected joint, due to the high prevalence of hip dysplasia in dogs. Osteoarthritis is more prevalent in overweight dogs than their non-overweight siblings.
Symptoms of Canine Osteoarthritis:
At a young age, the signs of OA are acute joint pain and lameness. This acute phase of OA is often ignored and OA is generally diagnosed later in life when its chronic signs become more significant. Many owners first notice that their dog seems stiff after vigorous activity or when the dog first gets up after resting for a period of time (for example, upon waking up in the morning). The dog will often warm out of stiffness when beginning an activity, but may refuse to perform strenuous activities altogether. Dogs may be reluctant to jump into the car or go down stairs, and may lag behind on walks, or may appear slow to rise. They may also seek warmth and soft, comfortable surfaces, and may lick or chew at the affected joint. Dogs do not normally cry when in pain, so it is important to recognize other signs of OA pain.
How to Diagnose:
Dr. Gray will diagnose your dog with arthritis using several different procedures. First, she will listen to you describe your dog's symptoms, and then will conduct a complete physical and orthopedic examination. She may watch your dog move around, note the position in which your dog chooses to rest, and palpate (feel) the joints and their range of motion. Other diagnostic tests may include radiographs (x-rays). Radiographs often show joint changes, but severity seen on x-rays often does not correlate well with the amount of pain a dog experiences. Some dogs may appear very painful but show little bony change on radiographs, while others may exhibit no symptoms, but have severe changes on radiographs. Referral to a specialist maybe need for other imaging techniques may include arthrography, (a contrast dye is injected into the joint that can be seen on x-ray), CT scan, or MRI, which is expensive but may provide the best imaging of the joint and can allow cartilage loss to be seen.
Treatments for Arthritis:
The goals of treatment are to eliminate the underlying cause of the arthritis (possibly with the use of surgery to stabilize or correct an abnormal joint), to reduce pain and inflammation, to improve joint function, and to slow or halt the arthritic process. Treatment can include both management as well as drug therapy.
Weight: It is important that the dog maintain a normal weight; obese dogs should be put on a strict diet. Lower weight leads to less stress on the joints, and this can help reduce the dose or frequency of drug administration, which, in turn, can reduce side effects.
Exercise modification: A controlled, moderate exercise program performed consistently is best. Moderate exercise can help maintain range of motion of the joint, maintain muscle mass, and promote cartilage health. Exercise also helps with weight reduction. The exercise level should be modified according to the needs of the individual dog. If the dog seems stiff following a certain amount of exercise, it should be slightly reduced during the next activity period.
Environmental modification: Ramps can help to reduce the painful activities like jumping into cars, or onto couches or beds. Small dogs can be carried up flights of stairs or during other uncomfortable activities.
Arthritis Medications: Never give your dog any medications, including human over-the-counter medications, without talking to your veterinarian. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common drug category prescribed. There are several NSAIDS that may be used to alleviate pain and OA inflammation in your pet. NSAIDs have several important side effects, for example, they can cause stomach ulceration, renal disease and, in rare cases, can cause liver damage, so should be used with care and at the lowest possible effective dose. Your veterinarian may monitor your dog?s bloodwork regularly to check for any signs of organ damage.
Nutraceuticals: which are supplements not regulated by the FDA, include glucosamine and chondroitin, MSM, and Omega Fatty acids. These products provide some raw materials needed to synthetize joint cartilage and decrease inflammation that can further contribute to joint pain and damage.
Cold Laser Therapy: Cold laser therapy is a non-invasive procedure, meaning that it does not require surgery or involve taking any medications, which is something many of our clients prefer. Laser light is used to help decrease inflammation in your pet's joints. Check out our Cold Laser Therapy Page
Here are some excellent links to help you keep your arthritic pet moving. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, regular exercise is important.
Detailed exercise videos
Specific stage exercises