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Dog Arthritis

Dog Arthritis

Arthritis is pain and inflammation in the joints and affects dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages.

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This can result in changes to the joint cartilage, the joint fluid, the bones involved in the joint and the actual capsule of the joint.

Signs of arthritis include:

  • Reluctance to walk, climb stairs, jump, or play
  • Gradual limping or lameness in one or more limb
  • Swelling around a joint
  • Heat around a joint
  • Tenderness when you palpate a joint
  • Tenderness when flexing a joint
  • Your dog holds its breath or stops panting when a painful joint is manipulated.
  • Your dog reacts suddenly – turns his head, snaps, or yelps in pain when you touch a sore joint
  • Your dog puts less weight on a leg with a sore joint when he’s standing still
  • Your dog holds up a leg with a sore joint
  • Redness of the skin around a sore joint. (You may have to part the dog’s hair to see this)
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Decreased appetite – pain from arthritis can cause a dog to stop eating
  • Difficulty rising from a resting position
  • A personality change resisting touch
  • Onset of stiffness being worst in the mornings improving as the day progresses

Because arthritis comes in different types, a trip to the veterinarian is necessary for diagnoses and treatment. These types include:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA) also known as Degenerative joint disease (DJD)
  • Hip, Elbow or Knee Dysplasia
  • Knee (stifled joint)
  • Osteochondrosis
  • Hypertrophic arthritis
  • Shoulder (degeneration)
  • Wrist Arthritis (carpi)
  • Kneecap (dislocation)
  • Infectious Arthritis (Inflammatory joint disease)
  • Immune-mediated
  • Idiopathic (where the cause is unknown)

Arthritis is caused by: traumatic injury resulting in joint instability (tearing of the cruciate ligament); overweight – obesity can hasten its development by increasing the concussive forces in the joint; the joints may be genetically weakened or unstable as occurs in cases of hip dysplasia; failure of proper bone development (OCD) in young dogs.

Diagnoses is based on many factors such as: the history of the dog (if he had an injury or is overweight); clinical signs and by palpation of the joints; radiography (x-ray) which can assess the degree of joint changes; analyzing joint fluid.

Treatments include:

Degenerative joint disease can sometimes be halted or prevented by surgery when x-rays indicate joint malformations. If surgery is not indicated or advisable, relief can be achieved with painkillers, exercise, rest, and diet. However, even over-the-counter painkillers should not be used without the advice of a veterinarian who can determine which treatment is best for each dog.

New generations of drugs to relieve pain includes Rimadyl, Adequan, and Palaprin. These are only available from veterinarians.

– Rimadyl (generic name carprofen) has gotten raves from veterinarians for its ability to relieve pain with few side effects. Long-term use of this drug requires periodic blood tests for liver function, but most dogs apparently do well on it. Like all drugs, Rimadyl is not effective for all patients.

– Adequan (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan) is given by injection twice each week for four weeks. It not only relieves the pain of arthritis, it binds to damaged cartilage to facilitate repair, blocks the action of destructive enzymes that cause inflammation, and stimulates the production of healthy joint fluid.

– Palaprin6 is a buffered aspirin specifically for dogs; it can be used in the same circumstances in which aspirin is used but without the gastrointestinal irritation that sometimes occurs with aspirin.

Certain nutrients can greatly help their dog’s health and joint management such as: Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate, Shark Cartilage, Bovine Cartilage, Perna Canaliculus, Sea Cucumber and others. Your vet can recommend what he feels is best for your dog.

Anti-inflammatory medications can be very beneficial to control pain and inflammation when used sensibly and monitored by your veterinarian.

Corticosteroids (“steroids”,) are commonly used for treating the arthritic dog.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications (NSAIDS)

Magnetic Therapy

Acupuncture can give excellent results in pain management and may eliminate the need for medications.

Herbal medicine can give great benefits also as they are designed to treat the animal in a holistic manner. Be confident in your choice of herbal practitioner and ask your veterinarian for guidance if unsure.

If there is a traumatic cause, surgical repair of ligaments may be necessary to stabilize the joint.

The Bottom Line:

First and foremost, always consult your veterinarian for advice and treatment.

Whether drugs, surgery, or both are indicated in arthritis treatment owners should make sure their dogs get plenty of rest and are not asked to perform painful exercise during treatment and recuperation. Veterinary advice regarding exercise should be followed even though it may seem that the recovery is slow. Ultimately, the type and duration of exercise will have to be restricted to reduce the pain as much as possible.

Remember to deal with any problems of obesity because a few extra pounds will put extra pressure on painful joints.

Elevated feeders for food and water help to eliminate stress on neck and back muscles (especially for older dogs or large breeds).

Dog ramps or stair steps are a great aid in helping older and arthritic dogs get onto (or down from) their favorite sofa or chair.

Comfort Lift Carriers used under chest or abdomen are wonderful for helping arthritic, lame or recovering pets up steps, around the yard, in and out of vehicles, or simply up on their feet.

If he sleeps in your bed, a foot stool at the side or bottom of the bed might be helpful for him to gain access to the bed.

Providing him a good bed such as egg crate mattresses, heated beds, or special needs beds (orthopedic bed) may also help relieve some of your dog’s morning stiffness. A bed with soft, thick padding will help cushion bones. A circulating warm-water heating pad under the blanket can provide added warmth. To avoid burning the skin, never place your dog directly on the heating pad. Your vet can give guidance on what type bedding he feels is best for your dog.

If he’s an outside dog, provide shelter from the rain and cold.

Applying heat to the joint can help relieve muscle spasm and pain. Just soak a towel in warm water, and apply to the joint for 10 minutes, two to three times a day. Be careful with heat – if the heat pack is too warm, it can irritate the skin.

If you notice swelling in the joint area, it is better to apply a cold pack, or ice wrapped in a towel, for 15-20 minutes, three times a day. Also be careful with cold packs because if they are too cold, or are used for too long, they can irritate the skin. It’s important to talk to your veterinarian if you see signs of joint swelling.

Like people, dogs with arthritis can experience more discomfort when in a cold, damp environment, so try to keep your dog in a warm and dry environment.

Physical Therapy:

Range of Motion and Stretching Exercises

Whirlpools, swimming pools, bathtubs, sinks, lakes and streams, and underwater treadmills may be used for aquatic therapy.

Moderate, low-impact exercises such as regular leash walking and swimming are ideal for dogs. Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for all dogs. Arthritic dogs will greatly benefit from swimming, because it is low impact, has no jarring effect on the joint and gives your dog a good workout while strengthening and building up muscle tone. Never leave a dog alone in the pool!

Shock wave therapy. Although treatment of dogs with shock wave therapy is relatively new, tendonitis, desmitis, spondylosis, non-union fractures, and osteoarthritis have all been successfully treated. The clinical effects of shock wave treatment include reduced inflammation and swelling, short-term analgesic effect, improved vascularity and neovascularization, increased bone formation, realignment of tendon fibers, and enhanced wound healing.

Gentle massage can be used to increase blood flow to the arthritic areas before activity, and to decrease stiffness after activity. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to correctly massage around affected joints.

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