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Dog arthritis - How can I help my dog with osteoarthritis?


Having your dog diagnosed with arthritis can be daunting and scary. It is a life long condition and can be very painful for them. However, as it is such a common disease, there is plenty of research behind what we can do to help.


What is osteoarthritis?


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint condition in dogs, with research estimating it affects up to 20% of dogs. Joint dysplasia, trauma or repetitive loading of the joints are how it develops for most individuals. This means if an animal has elbow or hip dysplasia, they will likely suffer from OA in their later life. Similarly, if they have ever injured the joint or are built in a way that puts extra strain through a particular joint, this may develop into OA further down the line.


OA occurs when the cartilage within a joint is being destroyed faster than it can be repaired. This leads to joint inflammation and bone remodelling. Below is a diagram illustrating a healthy joint compared to the osteoarthritic comparison, which depicts thinned cartilage, which has been broken down. The bones are closer together and the whole joint is inflamed and painful.

How can I tell if my dog has arthritis?


Owners most commonly notice a change in their dog's behaviour. The dog might not jump onto the sofa anymore, refuse to go upstairs or simply lie down more frequently. It is important to understand and look out for signs of pain in our dogs.


Dogs with arthritis may have a limp; these range from very obvious to barely detectable. Things to look out for to spot this are, a head nod for a front leg or a hip hike for a back leg. This just means that when they step on the painful leg, their head or hip will come up more. You might also be able to hear them landing harder on one leg or see that they step short with one in particular.


There are many other signs of OA including muscle asymmetry, clicking joints or swelling. Muscle asymmetry may appear on only one side or on both and there may be muscle groups that have grown or gotten smaller over time. You may be able to hear clicking when the dog stands up or moves their limbs and be able to feel it if you hold your hand over the joint whilst it moves. The joint may be hot and swell due to the inflammation present.


How can I help my dog with arthritis?


The main aim is to reduce their pain and prevent deterioration. This will most likely be through painkillers prescribed by the vets. Joint supplements can also be very useful, as well as maintaining a healthy weight.


Physiotherapy is a great tool for dogs with OA. As part of a physiotherapy session, we offer many solutions to pain management, including PEME and laser which reduce pain, without causing unwanted effects of some drugs. Furthermore, OA effects not just the one joint, but the whole body due to compensations from their altered movement. This creates sore muscles, which are often overlooked in traditional treatment and can be eased with massage and stretching. Exercises can be given to target specific muscles, which will help support the joint and improve your dog’s mobility.


Overall, there are many ways you can help your dog and get them back to their normal selves. Please get in touch for more information on how you can help or follow my social medias for tips and tricks.




References


Anderson, K.L., Zulch, H., O'Neill, D.G. Meeson, R.L. and Collins, L.M. (2020) ‘Risk Factors for Canine Osteoarthritis and Its Predisposing Arthropathies: A Systematic Review’, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7(220), pp. 1-16.


Andersson, A. and Bergström, A. (2019) ‘Adaptation of the Canine Orthopaedic Index to evaluate chronic elbow osteoarthritis in Swedish dogs’, Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 61(29), pp. 1-10.


Bland, S.D. (2015) ‘Canine osteoarthritis and treatments: a review’, Veterinary Science Development, 5(5931), pp. 84-89.


Cope, P.J., Ourradi, K., Li, Y. and Sharif, M. (2019) ‘Models of osteoarthritis: the good, the bad and the promising’, Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 27(2), pp. 230-239.


Ravalli, S., Pulici, C., Binetti, S., Aglieco, A., Vecchio, M. and Musumeci, G. (2019) ‘An Overview of the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Elbow Osteoarthritis’, Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 4(30), pp. 1-11.


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