Arthritis is a general term for abnormal changes in the joint. These changes occur when cartilage is worn away faster than it can be replaced. Cartilage acts as a cushion to protect the bones. When it wears away, joints become swollen and painful.
Although arthritis is not curable, early treatment is key — without it, your dog will continue to lose cartilage resulting in the need for more aggressive treatments like surgery.
Dog Arthritis Symptoms
Limping – A common sign of arthritis, but could also indicate other joint issues
Difficulty moving – Hesitates to go up and down stairs
Stiffness – Especially noticeable after resting
Irritability – Whimpers, growls or snaps when touched in the affected area
Muscle atrophy – Legs start thinning as the muscles starts atrophying
Licking and chewing – A common way that dogs indicate that they are in pain
Spinal issues – Most people associate arthritis with a dog’s legs, but it can also affect a dog’s back
Does my dog have arthritis?
If your dog has arthritis, the first thing you’ll notice is that he finds movement difficult and is reluctant to walk, run and jump. Your dog may also yelp or flinch when touched in the affected area. Arthritis can have serious effects on your dog’s health and mobility but some signs of arthritis are similar to those of other serious conditions. Take note of any changes in your dog’s mood or behavior and make sure you consult your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.
The most common type of canine arthritis is degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, affecting more than one out of five adult dogs in the United Sates, the Arthritis Foundation recently reported. Scientific studies indicate that 20 percent of middle-aged dogs and 90 percent of senior dogs have osteoarthritis in at least one joint.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage protecting the bones of the joint is destroyed. The joint loses its cushion, causing friction between bones, leading to pain and decreased mobility in affected joints. Inflammation of the cartilage can also stimulate bony growths (spurs) to form around the joints. Since cartilage has no nerve supply, damage can progress with no outward symptoms until the joint is severely damaged and the lubricating fluid has lost its ability to protect the bone surfaces. Although any joint in a dog’s body can be affected by arthritis, the most commonly affected joints are the hips, elbows, lower back, knees and wrists.
Inflammatory Joint Disease
The other less common type of arthritis affecting dogs is inflammatory joint disease, usually caused by an infection, such as bacterial or fungal infection, tick-borne disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. This type of arthritis can also be caused by an underlying defect in your dog’s immune system, which may be hereditary. (AKC Canine Health Foundation.)
Signs of arthritis in dogs
– Hesitates to go up and down stairs
– Lagging behind or tiring easily during walks
– Prefers to lie down rather than sit or stand
– Stiffness, especially after resting
– Whimpers, growls or snaps when touched in the affected area
What causes arthritis in dogs?
Age – As dogs get older, cartilage will begin to degenerate. Though arthritis is much more common in mature or senior dogs, young dogs can suffer from arthritis, too.
Breed – Certain large breed dogs are more prone to arthritis and decreased mobility. Those dog breeds include Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers, German shepherds and Rottweilers.
Excess weight – Excess weight on your dog means excess stress on the joints and cartilage, which can lead to arthritis and joint health problems.
– Congenital or hereditary defects. Some dog breeds may have congenital or hereditary conditions that make them more prone to developing arthritis later in life.
– Accidents or trauma. Trauma to cartilage caused by accidents can damage cartilage, resulting in arthritis later in life and adversely affecting mobility in your dog.
– Infection. Occasionally, infections can lead to the destruction of cartilage and joint tissue.
Managing Arthritis in Dogs: Improving Mobility and Joint Health
– Don’t wait. Act now to preserve your dog’s joint health.
– When your dog has arthritis, cartilage in his joints is wearing away, causing significant pain.
– Addressing the problem now can spare your dog more aggressive treatments, like surgery.
Breeds Prone to Arthritis
Arthritis is a degenerative disease and may stem from genetic predisposition, developmental challenges, or trauma to the bones or joints. Large, heavy dogs are more likely to suffer from arthritis, as they tend to grow quickly, age faster, and participate in more excessive exercise than smaller breeds. However, small dogs like the Dachshund, that are specifically bred to produce unique body shapes are also at risk. Large breed dogs at significant risk include: German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Great Danes, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Old English Sheep Dogs.
The food and nutritional additives your dog eats plays an important role in his overall health and well-being. Balanced nutrition is an essential part of an active, healthy lifestyle for dogs. Incorporating a few key nutrients into your dog’s life may help reduce inflammation and result in joint pain relief. By adding good omega 3 fats and antioxidants, your dog’s body will be feeling its best.