Like humans, dogs tend to suffer from a number of ailments as they age. And also like humans, one of the most common ailments is osteoarthritis. Although it is most common in older dogs, it can strike at any age, especially in those who have certain risk factors. Find out if your dog is at risk, as well as what signs to look for and how you and your veterinarian can best manage it.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, also called OA, is a degenerative disease of the joints. It can occur in any joint, but is most common in the hips, knees, and elbows. The most common cause is wear and tear that ruptures the joint capsule and causes the protective synovial fluid to leak out. This leaves the cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones vulnerable to deterioration, which over time, leaves the bones rubbing against each other. The movement of bone against bone causes inflammation and significant pain.
There are 4 stages of OA:
Stage 1. The degenerative process has started, but there are few outward signs.
Stage 2. Your dog may begin to slow done or be less interested in strenuous play.
Stage 3. Your dog shows signs of pain while walking and may show reluctance to go upstairs or jump into the car.
Stage 4. This is also called end-stage osteoarthritis. Your dog shows signs of pain with any type of movement. If the OA is in 1 leg only, your pup may avoid using that leg. If it's in more than one leg, they may have trouble functioning at all.
What Are the Risk Factors for OA?
Some dogs are more prone to suffer from OA than others. Certain breeds, such as Labradors and German shepherds, have a gene that can cause them to be born with a malformed joint. Dogs who have suffered an injury to a joint are more likely to suffer from OA in that joint. Weight also is a factor. Dogs who carry a few extra pounds have increased stress on their joints and therefore more likely to have damage to them.
How Do You Care for Your Dog with OA?
There is no cure for OA, however, there are ways to manage it to make your furry friend more comfortable. Typical treatment involves both medical treatment and physical therapy. Medical treatment means providing pain relief, usually through non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and supplements to help preserve cartilage.
It's also important to give your dog appropriate levels of exercise to keep the joints and muscles limber and for weight control. Diet is also important, both for weight control and to ensure proper bone health. Your veterinarian can prescribe a well-balanced diet and recommend supplements. Swimming, massages, and muscle manipulation by a physical therapist can also help manage your pup's pain. You want to keep your furry friends around as long as possible, but you also want those bonus years to be as enjoyable for your dog as they are for you.
For more information, reach out to a local clinic, such as Graceful Animal Hospital.