Osteoarthritis is the wearing away of the protective cartilage between the joints. Sometimes it can also be caused by disease.
Sadly, there is no known cure for osteoarthritis and it’s a progressive disease that gets worse with time.
Large and giant breed dogs are at higher risk for osteoarthritis than their small breed counterparts. Age is also a factor. The older your dog the more likely they are to be arthritic.
Dogs can have a genetic predisposition to osteoarthritis or might contract it from being infected with Lyme Disease.
Other factors that can influence the development of this disease are obesity and poor nutrition. An extremely thorough study on osteoarthritis in dogs can be found on the National Library of Medicine site.
Yes. Arthritis in dogs is painful, just like it is in humans.
The earlier you catch the condition, the easier it will be to manage the symptoms that your dog is experiencing – including pain.
Dogs can experience various symptoms of osteoarthritis. The most common are:
- A lower interest or willingness to exercise or play
- Lower levels of energy
- Lameness or stiffness
- Difficulty getting up and down
- A change in the way they walk or their posture
- A bunny hop type walk
- Slouching while walking
Vets will diagnose a dog with osteoarthritis by first observing the dog’s gait and feeling for swelling or excess fluid in the joints. Joints may also display a decreased range of motion
Your vet may also recommend:
- Bloodwork if your dog needs medications
- Xrays to see what is happening in their bones
- Analysis of the joint fluid to rule out cancer or infection
- An MRI or CT scan
- Joint endoscopy to visualize and sometimes provide treatment for the affected area
- Force plate gait analysis. This measures the force between the ground and the paw.
If you work with your veterinarian to provide proper pain management for your dog, then you can expect your dog to live a normal lifespan.
The average lifespan for big dogs is about 9 to 12 years.
Just as with humans, there is no known cure for osteoarthritis in dogs. When the cartilage in the joints degrades, it doesn’t come back.
Even though there is no permanent recovery, there are several different pain management strategies that you can use to help your dog be more comfortable with osteoarthritis.
Dogs with osteoarthritis may have trouble with long walks, but keeping the joints limber through exercise is still important.
Several short, small walks during the day work better for most dogs, especially as their arthritis gets worse.
There are multiple ways that you can help your big dog who has arthritis. Here are several ideas.
The most important thing you can do for an arthritic dog is to make sure they have regular veterinary care. A vet can help with the proper medications and advise you on supplements and other medical treatments.
These things can make a big difference in the levels of pain your dog feels.
This is one of the most important things you can do to help your dog that has osteoarthritis. Extra weight puts stress on your dog’s joints and can make arthritis more painful.
If your dog is overweight, talk with your vet about how to reduce their weight safely.
Even if your dog doesn’t want to walk or play as much as it used to, it’s important to keep your dog active. Keeping your dog active with short, frequent activities can help them rebuild muscle around damaged joints.
Get Your Dog a Good Bed
There are lots of good orthopedic dog beds available today. Orthopedic beds are more expensive than regular dog beds. But it’s worth it to pay more for a bed that is premium quality when your dog has arthritis.
Don’t go for elevated or nested beds. They can be hard for your dog to get out of. When it gets colder out you might want to use a dog heating pad or a heated bed for your dog. Heat helps to soothe sore joints in dogs just like it does for people.
Hard floors can be tough on dog joints. You don’t need to cover every inch of your floor, but laying down foam mats (like you use in a garage) or yoga mats where your dog travels regularly can help them be more comfortable moving around.
Jumping can be hard for dogs with joint pains. Dog ramps are available in many styles and sides. Look for a dog ramp that has a surface with traction and put one where your dog normally jumps – like the bed and the couch. You can even get a dog ramp for your car.
Dog nails should never click on the floor. Keeping your dog’s nails as short as possible will help your dog have more traction as they walk and make it easier to get around.
If you don’t like trimming their nails, this is a service that vets and groomers offer.
There are special slings and carts that you can use to help your dog get around. When your dog is no longer mobile on its own, this can help them a great deal.
Arthritis is a painful condition that progressively gets worse over time. If your dog has arthritis it can still live a happy and full lifespan with your help. By paying attention to your dog’s needs and getting them proper veterinary care, you can give them the best life they can have.