Osteoarthritis in dogs is common and difficult to watch your pet go through. In this article, you’ll learn the signs and symptoms and how to treat the condition. If your dog is suffering from osteoarthritis, you’re not alone.
Let’s get started.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of joint cartilage, the protective cushioning between the bones in a joint. As the cartilage wears away, the bones start rubbing against each other, leading to inflammation and discomfort. The condition affects humans and animals, including dogs. It causes pain and stiffness and reduces mobility.
Osteoarthritis can develop due to various factors, such as age, previous joint injuries, being overweight, or developmental abnormalities. Large breed dogs and senior dogs are more prone to developing this condition.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs may include lameness, difficulty in getting up or lying down, difficulty exercising, stiffness after rest, and noticeable joint swelling or deformities. While it’s a chronic condition without a cure, there are ways to help alleviate or lessen symptoms to improve quality of life.
How Common Is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?
Osteoarthritis in dogs is quite common. It affects approximately a quarter of the canine population. The prevalence of the disease tends to increase with age but it can also affect younger dogs, particularly those with certain genetic predispositions or those who have experienced injuries or developmental abnormalities. In addition, certain large dog breeds have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis, such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dog Osteoarthritis?
When your dogs start to reach years 10-12, you may notice their once-energetic self change. They may not have the same jump when you throw around their dog toys. In fact, they probably just want to lie down and avoid movements as much as possible. This may be to keep their swollen joints from hurting anymore. Time to take them to the vet to see what’s going on, as this is a common sign of osteoarthritis.
The signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs include pain and swollen joints, stiffness and lameness, licking of joints, reluctance to stand or use stairs, and irritability or unusual aggression. Osteoarthritis can be very painful and since dogs can’t tell you what they’re experiencing it comes out in some of these ways.
Some of the signs and symptoms related to osteoarthritis can overlap with other health conditions. So, getting an evaluation from a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose osteoarthritis and rule out other potential causes.
Pain and Swollen Joints
Joints with osteoarthritis may appear swollen, and there may be an increase in temperature around the joint. The swelling is often accompanied by pain and tenderness. They may whimper or tense when you’re rubbing or petting them.
Licking at Joints
Dogs may lick or chew at the affected joints in an attempt to alleviate discomfort. This behavior can lead to hair loss, redness, or skin irritation around the joint.
General Mobility Decline, Stiffness, and Lameness
Dogs with osteoarthritis are likely to exhibit some stiffness, especially after getting up from a lying position. They may also show signs of lameness or favoring one leg over another. This could include limping or having difficulty bearing weight on the affected limb. This can affect how their posture to pee or poop, so you may notice them adjusting their stance or changing their bathroom habits.
They may move more slowly or stop doing some of the things they used to love, like playing and running in the yard. The reduction in movement in general can lead to loss of muscle mass as well.
Reluctance to Stand or Use Stairs
In addition to stiffness and lameness, osteoarthritis causes some dogs to have difficulty standing or using stairs. Things like jumping on or off furniture also become challenging and painful.
Irritability or Unusual Aggression
Dogs in pain may exhibit changes in behavior, such as irritability or unusual aggression. They may also withdraw from social interactions.
Suggested Reading: Why is my pug becoming aggressive? It may be a sign of something else going on.
What Is the Treatment for Osteoarthritis in Dogs?
Treatment for osteoarthritis in dogs aims to manage pain, reduce inflammation, and improve joint function. We highly recommend consulting with your vet for the best course of treatment. But these are the three most common options.
Regular exercise helps keep a dog’s joints moving and helps maintain a healthy weight. Both of which can reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis. Just be sure to never do more than your dog can handle, know its limits and stay within them. For example, if your pup used to be able to walk four miles without any issues, it may only be able to do one mile with osteoarthritis.
Maintaining a healthy weight with a nutritional diet is crucial for dogs with osteoarthritis. Any excess weight puts additional stress on the joints, causing more pain and discomfort. A balanced diet and portion control, along with regular exercise tailored to the dog’s capabilities, can help manage weight and reduce joint strain. You can also implement an arthritis-focused food.
Pro Tip: Learn about dog food sensitivity and if you should test your pup.
Pain Medications & Supplements
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed by veterinarians to relieve pain and reduce inflammation in dogs with osteoarthritis. Certain supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, may also support joint health and slow down the progression of osteoarthritis. These supplements help promote cartilage repair and reduce inflammation.
Below is a list of common vitamins that are known to help treat osteoarthritis in dogs. Be sure to consult with your vet before administering any type of medication or supplement to your dog.
- Green-lipped mussel
- Omega-3 fatty acids (Fish Oil)
Additionally, more and more people are trying CBD oils and treats. Touted for alleviating muscle and joint pain, CBD continues to win praise as a natural, all-around healer for joint and muscle pain. Most vets will not recommend CBD products due to regulatory reasons, but we encourage you to do your own research.
How Long Can a Dog Live With Osteoarthritis?
The lifespan of a dog with osteoarthritis can vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the condition, the dog’s overall health, and the effectiveness of pain management. Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative condition, so this is no cure. But, with appropriate treatment and care, many dogs live for several years with osteoarthritis.
Early diagnosis and intervention can help slow down the progression of the disease and alleviate symptoms. It’s important to work closely with your veterinarian to monitor your dog’s condition regularly.
One of our team member’s dogs has osteoarthritis. He’s a senior pup and is on pain medication to manage his discomfort. While he has bad days, he has a lot of good days and every once in a while will still jump around like a puppy. He doesn’t do stairs anymore and wakes up a little stiff, but overall he’s still loving life. It’s very sad when he’s experiencing pain, but they’re cherishing each day they still have together since the osteoarthritis in dogs’ life expectancy is unknown.
Provide Comfort to Your Dog When Suffering From Osteoarthritis
If your dog is suffering from osteoarthritis, consult with your vet to know what it needs to be comfortable. None of us want to see our dogs suffer, so knowing how to manage their pain is crucial. We wish they could tell us how they feel, but since they can’t we simply need to do our best to care for them.
Have you had a dog with osteoarthritis? Which treatment plan did you implement? Feel free to share your story in the comments below.
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