Dogs often experience the same types of health issues that people do, such as cancer, diabetes, and even cognitive decline. Therefore, it come as no surprise that dogs, like people, can develop osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a common orthopedic disease in dogs that is caused by a gradual breakdown of the cartilage that surrounds the joints.
Osteoarthritis can cause significant pain and discomfort in dogs and negatively affect their quality of life. Therefore, it is important to understand the basics of osteoarthritis and know what you can do as a pet parent if your dog has this orthopedic condition.
Osteoarthritis commonly affects the hip, elbow, and knee joints. It has many causes, including injury, old age, and obesity. Genetic orthopedic diseases, such as hip dysplasia, can also cause osteoarthritis. Whatever the cause, the mechanics of osteoarthritis are the same: the cartilage surrounding the joints breaks down, causing abnormal and painful wear and tear on the joints. Dogs with osteoarthritis often show the following symptoms:
- Yelping with pain
- Decreased physical activity
- Behavior changes, including aggression
- Difficulty standing up, jumping, and using stairs
Dogs might try to mask their discomfort but, eventually, the osteoarthritis may cause more pain than a dog can hide. If you notice these symptoms or observe that your dog is simply slowing down, take your dog to your veterinarian for a thorough workup.
Your veterinarian will do a normal physical examination, then perform an orthopedic examination to take a closer look at the joints. Your veterinarian will move your dog’s joints and limbs to assess pain and feel for changes like joint swelling and decreased muscle tone. X-rays will show changes at and around the affected joints, such as a narrowed joint space, new bone growth, and fluid within the joint.
Many treatment and management options are available for dogs with osteoarthritis, including those listed below:
- Weight loss (very important for overweight or obese dogs)
- Physical therapy
- Massage therapy
- Increased physical activity
- Non-steroidal pain medications
- Joint supplements, including omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin
For dogs with severe osteoarthritis, surgery may be the best choice to relieve the intense pain and discomfort. Surgical options include correcting the injury that caused the osteoarthritis, stabilizing unstable joints, or completely replacing the arthritic joints.
In addition to these options, pet parents can change the home environment to make it more comfortable for their dog with osteoarthritis. For example, pet parents can place rugs on the floor to provide their dog with more traction when walking around the house. Ramps are helpful for dogs to get into the car or get up on the couch. Orthopedic dog beds relieve painful pressure points, allowing dogs to rest comfortably when lying down. Raised food and water bowls, positioned at your dog’s shoulder level, can make meal time much more comfortable for your dog.
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