|If your dog doesn’t jump to greet you on your return home each evening, there may be a good reason - osteoarthritis. A chronic, degenerative joint disease that makes movement difficult and painful, osteoarthritis mainly strikes pets in their middle and senior years. However, younger animals can also be affected. In fact, studies show that approximately 20% of dogs have the condition in some form.
It can be heartbreaking to see your once lively, always active best friend begin to limp, or notice his or her obvious pain when moving around. There is, as yet, no cure for osteoarthritis, but there is a great deal that you and your veterinarian can do to decrease your pet’s discomfort and increase his or her mobility - especially if it is treated promptly.
Early warning signs of osteoarthritis:
What causes osteoarthritis?
How is osteoarthritis treated?
Treatment includes three main components, each equally important.
1. Weight control Dogs that suffer from chronic pain caused by conditions like osteoarthritis often become inactive, which can result in obesity. Controlling your pet’s weight will lighten the load on arthritic joints and make it less difficult to move around. Just as for humans, weight loss for animals involves both a well-balanced, calorie-reduced diet and regular exercise. Ask your veterinarian for advice on the proper diet for your dog.
2. Exercise is essential because it contributes to strengthening the muscles that support joints. Daily, moderate amounts of low-impact exercise also improves joint mobility and can help get a lethargic, arthritic pet active again. Dogs will benefit from such activities as walking and swimming.
3. Anti-inflammatory drugs combat inflammation in the joints, thus relieving pain, increasing mobility, and protecting the joint from further damage. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are the drugs of first choice for the treatment of canine osteoarthitis. Treatment is not curative, but will help control pain when needed. Newer NSAIDs are proving to be especially effective in reducing inflammation and pain, and improving mobility without the significant side effects - including gastrointestinal problems - previously associated with NSAID use. Ask your veterinarian for more information.
What’s the outlook for a pet with osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis may progress very slowly (over several years) or very quickly (you might notice a major change in just a few weeks or months). It all depends on your pet’s age, his or her activity level, the joints involved and the underlying cause.
Some pets’ pain and loss of mobility can be kept to a minimum for long periods of time with a simple regimen of weight control, moderate, regular exercise and the occasional use of anti-inflammatory drugs if flare-ups occur. For others, severe damage to the joints may occur rapidly and require long-term medication and other treatments. In either case, your veterinarian can determine the best course of treatment for your pet’s particular condition. There is no reason why, with your loving attention and committed care, as well as your veterinarian’s guidance, your osteoarthritic pet cannot have a happy, healthy and comfortable life for many years to come.
Back to top