Yes, just like people, dogs, too, get arthritis. The good news is we’re both living longer than ever before; however it does mean dealing with aging muscles, joints, and bones.
Dog arthritis is the most significant origin of chronic pain in our beloved four-legged companions, the acting culprit in as much as one out of five dogs, probably more.
Most of us have accepted arthritis as par for the elderly course; what about our beloved furry ones living those dog years and thus developing it sooner?
A few types of arthritis, such as septic and rheumatoid, are due to an infected joint brought on by an underlying condition.
- Septic happens if bacteria or possibly some other infecting cause finds its way into one or more joints, eventually turning into inflamed pain. Septic arthritis more often occurs in big or giant breeds and male dogs around three to eleven years of age.
Some known causes of septic arthritis are a compromised immune system, such as under-performing adrenal glands (Addison’s disease) and sugar diabetes (diabetes mellitus), as well as meds that weaken the immune system, past joint surgery, injury, or trauma to a joint.
As septic arthritis is a bacterial infection of the joint, your dog will most likely need hospitalization to drain and test the fluid. It is a severe condition that may even require surgery. Your trusted vet will prescribe antibiotics as the results come in from the bacterial culture and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to help with the pain.
However, the underlying cause of septic arthritis is often an acute sickness. Therefore, an adequate treatment while properly monitoring any signs of its return is the best course and preventive action once treatment begins or your dog has recovered.
- Rheumatoid arthritis directly goes after the cartilage in dogs. However, it is an autoimmune disease, relatively uncommon in most dogs, affecting smaller breeds at around two to four years of age, like the Miniature Poodle, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Shetland Sheepdogs, as well as Greyhounds.
RA symptoms vary and include trouble walking, loss of appetite, atrophy of the extremities, joint pain and swelling, kidney disease, repetitive urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and more.
What causes this condition that attacks the joints is unknown; however, some factors make a dog’s chances of developing the illness higher.
- Genetically predisposed
- Gastrointestinal disease
While these kinds of arthritis are possible, they are much less likely to occur in dogs. Whereas osteoarthritis, a disease that hits one or more of the joints via degeneration over time, and severe inflammation, is the most common type of arthritis in dogs, among elderly, certain prone larger breeds, but can affect any dog.
Unfortunately, there is no surefire cure for osteoarthritis; however, catching this progressive disease early and starting the proper regiment with your trusted vet will help keep your baby moving about with that quality of life jumping as well.
Like humans, dogs feel the changes caused by arthritis in the joints, and it can hurt. While the ailment can move in on any joint, it tends to make an annoying home in the hips, elbows, shoulders, and knees. There are various reasons, most commonly just from working those joints year after year, but an injury, underlying disease, or genetic defect can also cause.
Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) is the continuous weakening and swelling of the joint due to the connective tissue breakdown (cartilage). This flexible tissue plays the crucial role of cushion so the joints can gracefully go about their various movements. Unfortunately, this cushiony material starts deteriorating during osteoarthritis, resulting in losing this vital aid in motion, leading to inflammation, pain, bone spurs, and limited joint movement. While this condition can and will attack any joint in the body, it typically goes after the spine and extremities.
An aging dog is more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis, but it can afflict any dog. Moreover, it can be challenging to pin down as the primary cause of disease, as there can be risks for any dog, and it is a complex condition where often multiple factors might be at play:
- Excessive weight gain; obesity
- Severe injuries like ligament damage or fracture
- Breeds such as Labs, German Shepherds, Alaskan Malamute, Blood Hounds
- Infection that attacks the joints, like Lyme Disease
- Poor nutritional diet
- History or past diagnosis of elbow or hip dysplasia
- Bad skeletal structure
- Genetic predisposition
- General repetitive stress from uber-athletic doggy activities
- Just getting older
Osteoarthritis is tough to diagnose while it’s in the beginning stages; more often than not, symptoms won’t start to surface until the painful joint(s) is already severely damaged. But, just like us, dogs too will hide their pain and put on a Clint Eastwood stoic act instead, making the complex condition harder to detect. Therefore, it is imperative to monitor and watch middle-aged to senior dogs or those with a breed history prone to osteoarthritis and take the time to look deeper into any potential signs.
Osteoarthritis roughly translates to bone joint inflammation, and there are many signs, which do not always present simultaneously. However, here are some possible signs that your dog might be suffering:
- Holding back, reluctant to play, run around, jump up (in and out of vehicles)
- Trouble rising, limp, lame, appears to have stiffness
- Putting on weight and loses muscle mass about spine and extremities
- Overall lethargic, irritable, different behavior
- Expresses pain when pet or merely touched
- Painfully maneuvering to go the bathroom, as well as accidents inside
- Sudden aggressive behavior toward people and other canines
Your trusted vet will evaluate your loved one if you begin to notice any signs of osteoarthritis. They will perform a complete physical examination of your four-legged pal, analyzing the joints and deciding how well the range of motion functions. In addition, your vet will take X-rays to determine the level of joint damage and rule out any other diseases or conditions that might also cause similar symptoms in your dog.
While some forms of dog arthritis may be due to an underlying condition that is treatable and possibly remedied once diagnosed, there is, unfortunately, no cure for osteoarthritis, as it is a progressive disease where only treatment and management are available.
Prevention is possible via healthy, regular exercise, a great diet, and joint supplements, two ingredients okay for humans and their furry friends, called chondroitin and glucosamine. They help reduce inflammation in the joints, which allows healing, improves the cartilage’s water retention, and brings back some of that original cushioning that may have subsided over the years or throughout the disease’s course.
As well as (GLM) Green-lipped mussel, which is one more trusted joint supplement both dogs and owners can enjoy, utilizes antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and glycosaminoglycans. GLM is said to be quite good at its job, easing pain and decreasing inflamed joints; it is safe for use as long as it takes before and after diagnosis.
Because when osteoarthritis shows up, treatment is mainly focused on pain reduction, fighting back that inflammation, slowing illness progression, and helping maintain that good quality of life. Your trusted vet will most likely utilize multiple therapies simultaneously to combat and stall the disease as best possible:
- Change the activities (less jumping, diving, etc.); less impact exercise
- Watch the weight
- Use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Surgery (possibly)
- Dog physical therapy, acupuncture, massage.
- Make water and food dishes easier to reach
- A lift or ramp for getting in and out of vehicles
- Make sure the floor doesn’t cause slipping
- Assure bed is soft, well-padded
- Following your trusted vet’s nutritional and medication plan diligently
Living with Osteoarthritis
If diagnosed with time and correctly managed with your trusted vet, a dog with osteoarthritis has a great chance of continuing to live a long and everyday life. Adjusting a dog’s activity level might be understandably difficult, but it is essential to the success of the treatment to work with their changing bodies. Your vet will also help with the details and guidelines of managed care.
Letting your furry puppy grow while keeping in mind nutrition, activity, etc., into adulthood is the best way to work at preventing OA. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict or stop growing issues or wounds no matter how small, and when a dog hits ten, things become even more brutal to control as aging collects its toll. Yet, with a good nutritional diet, controlled growth, healthy exercise, and prime body conformation, things are in you and your dog’s favor regarding prevention and buying time until things get more complex.
Thankfully, dog arthritis is quite well known and understood in today’s medical fields; thus, working with your veterinarian to find the best plan for your beloved furry partner and sticking to it is the best chance at fighting the disease.
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