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Arthritis

It is estimated that 1 in 5 dogs suffer from arthritis.

Overview

Arthritis or osteoarthritis is the irreversible and progressive deterioration of joints that causes pain and a reduction in joint motion. It affects dogs of all ages but predominantly pets greater than 10 years of age.

Arthritis affects dogs of all sizes but large breed dogs are more commonly affected by arthritis than smaller ones.

Breeds commonly affected:

Risk factors:

Signs

Common signs of arthritis in a dog:

Osteoarthritis staging

Stage Description
0 Clinically normal. No OA risk factors.
1 Clinically normal. OA risk.
2 Mild clinical signs
3 Moderate clinical signs
4 Severe clinical signs

Management

Arthritis management is based on decreasing pain and clinical signs, slowing disease progression, and improving the quality of life.

Keys to successful arthritis management involves:

Pain management

Veterinary medicines such as pain control, nutraceuticals, or joint protective drugs such as injectable polysulfated glycosaminoglycans (PSGAG) may be prescribed.

Pain control is important in managing the later stages of arthritis. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are prescribed based on the health and weight of the pet. They offer both anti-inflammatory effects and pain control. Pets that are prescribed this medication must be closely monitored for side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea, increased drinking, or bleeding.

Other medications include disease-modifying agents such as PSGAG, glucosamine, Tramadol, or even alternative therapies such as Stem Cell Therapy.

Controlled exercise

A controlled exercise that decreases joint strain and builds muscles to support joints such as swimming or walking on flat surfaces can help improve mobility.

There are two forms of exercise that are important in the management of arthritis:

Tips to help prevent further joint and muscular injury:

Weight control

It has been estimated that 40% of dogs with arthritis are also overweight. This causes further stress on the weight-bearing joints. A strict weight optimization plan can help reduce pain and improve mobility.

Nutritional supplements

Diet control such as foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil or flaxseed oil) or veterinary prescription diets that have the correct balance of Omega-3 fatty acids can be useful.

Joint stabilization

Surgical options such as joint replacements, excision arthroplasty, or arthrodesis may be required if pain cannot be controlled by conservative means.

Home care

Tips to help manage a pet with arthritis:

Weight control Keeping your pet at a healthy weight loss may help relieve the pressure on the joints
Home care

Provide a warm environment as cold weather can worsen symptoms

Place beds away from cold draughts

Provide ramps instead of stairs to avoid jumping or falls

Avoid slippery areas such as tiles or place non-slip surfaces down to aid in mobility

Provide assistance in and out of the car

Exercise

Be consistent with exercise that is tailored to your pet - exercising just on the weekend may leave your pet feeling stiff and painful

Avoid rough terrain and uneven surfaces as this can be very hard on the joints

Avoid rough play

Grooming

Regularly groom with a soft brush as your pet may not be as flexible as before to reach those hard-to-reach areas

Trim nails more often as less active pets have less opportunity to wear down their nails

Parasite control Regular parasite control is important to prevent irritating parasite infections 
Supplements There are many supplements on the market that claim to help arthritis symptoms. Not all of them have been scientifically proven to be useful. Always consult your veterinarian about your pet's needs. 

If your pet appears to be in pain and does not eat or drink, seek veterinary attention. Your vet will be able to assign an arthritis management program to help improve the pet's quality of life.