Caring for a dog with arthritis.
Canine osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and joint problems in dogs. It affects mostly older dogs, but depending on the cause, some young dogs can suffer from the problem as well.
Regardless of the underlying cause, osteoarthritis causes changes to the structure of a normal joint. In particular, in osteoarthritis in dogs, there is:
Osteoarthritis usually progresses slowly in various stages. First there is joint inflammation which leads to structural damage of the joint. This worsens the inflammation causing the joint to be damaged further. Since the joint cartilage has a limited ability to heal, osteoarthritis is uncurable and, if not managed and controlled properly, the condition will continue to spiral downward.
The key to controlling and managing canine osteoarthritis is to catch it early, so that further damage to the joint is prevented or slowed down. It is therefore important for dog parents to recognize the telltale signs of osteoarthritis so that treatment can be given promptly.
Signs and Symptoms of Canine Osteoarthritis
The classic sign of osteoarthritis in dogs is pain. Dogs cannot talk, so how can we know if our dogs are in pain? Use these telltale signs of joint pain as a guide:
If your dog has pain in his joint, he is reluctant to put pressure on the affected leg. In a dog with a lame front leg, the head goes up when the painful limb hits the ground. This "head nod" is a type of gait abnormality associated with a sore front limb. A dog with a lame hind limb may have a horizontal "hip sway" or a vertical "hip hike". These gait abnormalities are ways of the dog to lessen the pain he feels while walking. A dog who "bunny hops" (using both hind limbs together in a hopping manner) may be a sign that both hind limbs are affected.
Difficulty Getting Up
Another common sign of pain associated with osteoarthritis is difficulty rising because osteoarthritis causes joint stiffness and weakening of muscles. Rising from a lying position requires a lot of muscle strength and that explains why an osteoarthritic dog has difficulty getting up.
Some dogs with arthritis may not show lameness but may be unwilling or unable to exercise as long or as hard as they used to. They may also be relunctant to climb stairs. Some dog parents may mistake this as a sign of aging, but the possibility of osteoarthritis should not be overlooked.
Dogs tend to lick their wounds and sore spots incessantly. Therefore, if your dog starts licking his leg, especially around the joint area, it may indicate that he is suffering from a painful joint.
A dog with chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis may show a change in his behavior. For example, he may become more grouchy or aggressive even towards his family members. He may lose his playfulness, or may just want to lie in a quiet place to rest.
Another sign that shows a dog may be in pain is reluctance or refusal to eat. As a result, the dog may become lethargic, weak, and over a period of time, may also become depressed.
In addition to having chronic joint pain, dogs with arthritis also show signs of limb dysfunction. This means that the dog cannot move normally or the movement is limited. For example, there is decreased joint range of motion such as the inability to bend or extend a joint fully. Limb dysfunction can also be caused by muscle weakness or atrophy. Because the dog uses the painful limb less, muscle mass in that limb will eventually be lost.
To learn more about treatment options for canine osteoarthritis, please visit Dog Arthritis Treatment.
If you have a dog nearing old age, the best thing you can do is watch for the common symptoms associated with arthritis. Common symptoms include a reluctance to walk, jump, or play, limping, a sudden reaction to you touching a sore joint (snaps at you or yelps with pain), favoring one leg over another, difficulty getting up and an increasing stiffness in the morning.