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What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Canine osteoarthritis is one of the main forms of arthritis which can be found in dogs. It is essentially a chronic disease which consists of the deterioration of the cartilage present in the affected dogís joints. Canine osteoarthritis leads to a loss in mobility as well as pain and discomfort around the affected area of the joint. Following this, the joints become inflamed and even more painful. This is because, without the protective padding of the cartilage, increased friction occurs between the joint bones. Deterioration of the bone and soft tissue may also be seen to occur.

New bone will then grow in dogs with condition where the cartilage has deteriorated, in addition to the soft tissue thickening, thus further reducing mobility and pain. Any joint belonging to the dog may have osteoarthritis including what can be described as the elbows and the knees. Larger dogs prone to hip dysplasia can often been seen to have canine osteoarthritis of the hip joints. Dogs that are overweight are more likely to have osteoarthritis than their healthier counterparts.


How Do Dogs Become Affected With Canine Osteoarthritis?

It has been suggested that there is always an underlying cause of arthritis in dogs. Canine Osteoarthritis may be a result of malformed joints in the dog. Certain breeds of dogs are considered more susceptible to patellar luxation. This is where the kneecap will slip to the side of the joint and this can usually be seen in smaller breeds such as the toy poodle. Some larger dogs are prone to hip dysplasia and as well as patellar luxation, this can result in arthritis of the affected joint.

 If a joint is damaged as a result of trauma then this can also lead to arthritis. This can include traumas leading to bone fractures. Obese dogs are likely to increase the severity of the disease as extra pressure is being put on the joint than is normal. In contrast, a higher level of stress can be applied to joints if the dog has a high activity level, and this may also increase the risk of arthritis. These dogs may include working dogs or those used in sports. As dogs get older, they are more likely to suffer from this form of joint affected arthritis.


How Do I Know If My Dog Has Osteoarthritis?

Initially, young dogs may show mild signs of canine osteoarthritis although this may not be noticed by owners. These affected dogs may have joint pain and show signs of being slightly lame. The severity of the problem increases as the dog ages. The joint pain is increased as well as the subsequent lameness. Owners will notice that the affected animal will be stiff when moving or getting up from a lying down position. Additionally, it will be observed that the dog with osteoarthritis may prefer warmer conditions as cold environments can worsen the level of pain that is experienced. In order to attempt to relieve the pain, the affected dog may lick or chew at the painful areas. The dog may be reluctant to move and show signs of lethargy.

For a veterinary diagnosis, the vet will initially take note of the signs and symptoms presented. Some vets may link the problem with the breed itself or perhaps even its size or weight. The vet will also observe the animalís movement and conduct a physical and orthopaedic examination. Confirmation may be required in the form of x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. Some vets might sometimes decide to take a sample of the fluid of the joint or joints suspected to have canine osteoarthritis and use the results as further confirmation. 


What Can I Do If My Dog Has Osteoarthritis?

If you suspect your dog to have Canine Osteoarthritis then the vet should be contacted immediately as it can be a very painful problem for the dog. On the other hand, it may actually be something much worse which will also require veterinary attention. Once diagnosed, the vet will aim to treat the underlying cause of the problem. Initially, blood tests may be needed to ensure that any medication will not adversely affect the liver or kidneys which could happen if, for some reason, they are not fully functional. Anti-inflammatory medication is then given to reduce the swelling provided the liver the kidneys are in good working order. Pain relief medications are also usually administered.

Owners can reduce the severity of the problem by ensuring that their dogs are not overweight or obese. A correct balance of diet and exercise is a necessity for all dogs and vary on the breed and the individual. Obese dogs should be put on a correct diet advised by the vet as well as made to have adequate exercise. This exercise will not only aid in the general mobility of the dog but also help to maintain the required weight. Owners with affected dogs often put up ramps for dogs to go on settees or into cars as jumping will be more painful than normal. Owners should not give their dogs medication designed for humans as this can be very dangerous. Physical therapy and hydrotherapy may be a possibility.


Can I Prevent My Dog From Having Osteoarthritis?

There are ways of reducing the risk of you dog having Canine Osteoarthritis. Initially, you will need to find a reliable and reputable breeder that has x-rays of their animalís joints in order to decide whether or not to breed from them. For example, if the dog has had problems with joint formation or arthritis, then it should not be bred from.

Obesity is a common cause of arthritis and so should be avoided by providing the correct diet and exercise for its breed and age. Puppies should not be over-exercised or fed to grow too rapidly as this may also result in arthritis. Additionally, owners may not want to choose a breed prone to hip dysplasia as this does often lead to arthritis of the hip joint.


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