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Arthritis

Arthritis, or more commonly called “osteoarthritis” in dogs, doesn't discriminate. It may affect people and dogs of all ages. If you notice major changes in your dog's mood and activity, it could be osteoarthritis - one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat.

What is Ostheoarthritis?

It's a degenerative condition that affects and inflames one or more joints. It can result in changes to the joint cartilage, joint fluid, joint bones and capsule of the joint.

What Causes Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

There are many things that can cause osteoarthritis in dogs such as:

  • traumatic injuries that result in joint instability
  • obesity - being overweight increases the forces in the joint
  • genetically weakened or unstable joints e.g. hip dysplasia
  • failure of proper bone development in young dogs

Which Breeds are More Likely To Get Osteoarthritis?

Any dog of any age can get arthritis. However, medium to large breeds are at greater risk because the extra weight is more likely to damage their joints, and they are prone to certain joint diseases such as hip dysplasia. Some of these breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Rottweiler's, German Shepherds, Collies and Golden Retrievers.

What are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Unfortunately, dogs can't tell us what's wrong, so it's important to keep an eye out for clues and subtle changes such as:

  • difficulty sitting or standing
  • favouring a limb
  • decreased activity or less interest in play
  • attitude or behaviour changes
  • having stiff or sore joints
  • being less alert reluctance to jump, run or climb stairs
  • weight gain
  • sleeping more

How Can I Treat and Reduce the Chance of Osteoarthritis?

You need to consult your veterinarian to find out the best treatments and preventive measures for your dog. However, here are some things you can do to help.

Weight Management

You have control over the amount and type of food your dog eats. So make it easier for them to get their recommended weight, and keep it there.

Smart Exercise

No exercise can be worse than doing too much. At the same time, the wrong type of exercise can be just as harmful. Your dog needs low impact exercises that offer a good range of motion, build muscle and limit wear and tear on their joints. These could include:

  • walking and slow jogging on grass
  • walking on treadmills
  • swimming going up and down stairs

Remember to warm-up your dog's muscles before they exercise, and then cool-down afterwards.

Warmth and Good Sleeping Areas

Osteoarthritis often gets worse in cold, damp weather. Keep your dog warm and comfortable with a blanket and a winter coat to go outside. Think about making sure that your dog's sleeping area is nice and warm.

And to make life easier when your dog wants to kick back and relax, consider getting a firm, orthopedic foam bed. They help distribute weight evenly and reduce pressure on joints. They are also much easier for your stiff and aching friend to get out of.

Massage and Physical Therapy

There are veterinary physical therapists who can perform soothing physiotherapy on your dog. They can also show you how to perform physical therapy and massage at home to help relax your dog's stiff muscles and increase the range of motion in their joints.

Medications

Medications are available to help manage the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Some of these medications include those that manage the chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis. Please note that your dog metabolizes drugs differently than you do therefore the pills you may use to alleviate pain from arthritis are specifically formulated for people and can be dangerous to your dog. Please consult your veterinarian before giving any medication to your dog. Your veterinarian may prescribe medication to assist in managing the pain caused by your dog's osteoarthritis. For further information about this, please contact your veterinarian.

Additional Information

To download a fact sheet about osteoarthritis, click here.

Arthritis Foundation

Veterinary Partner

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