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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis is a painful condition where your dog's joint will gradually degenerate over time making it difficult for them to move around. Unfortunately, there is no known cure, but our Crystal Lake vets offer some treatment options to help dogs with osteoarthritis live more comfortably.

Degenerative Joint Disorder: What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs and is a degenerative joint disorder that leads to a permanent deterioration of the cartilage that provides cushioning for the joints. Commonly, osteoarthritis is in a dog's back legs. The osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs are quite painful and this condition is estimated to affect about a quarter of all dogs throughout their lifetime.

The Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to a number of telltale signs that your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis. The main osteoarthritis in dogs symptoms include:

  • Pain, stillness and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs or run
  • Reluctance to stand up 
  • Restlessness, can't get comfortable
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Whining, irritability or aggression
  • Licking joints
  • Slow shuffling walk

The Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is known to affect dogs of any breed, especially as they get older. That said, it is most commonly diagnosed in larger breeds of dogs.

The actual cause of osteoarthritis is largely unknown but this condition is often associated with underlying issues such as an injury due to trauma, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or dislocations of the shoulder or knee.

Obesity is also associated with osteoarthritis. Excess weight can put unnecessary stress on the dog's joints leading to pain, and degenerative joint issues over time.

Treatment Options For Dogs With Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis in dogs cannot be reversed or cured. Successful treatment of this condition reduces the pain caused by the affected joints, helps to slow the ongoing degeneration of the affected joints and allows your dog to live more comfortably, and enjoy a good quality of life as they continue to age. Your vet may recommend a variety of treatment options to be used together to help manage the symptoms of your dog's condition.

Prescription Medications

Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories are often prescribed as a long-term treatment for managing your dog’s joint pain and helping to reduce swelling. 

Daily Exercise

Although it may seem counterintuitive exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis. It may be necessary to cut back on exercise when your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis however staying mobile will help your dog to maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain and enjoy a good quality of life.

Your vet can help to recommend an exercise plan that is suitable for your dog's condition and needs. This exercise plan will aim to help relieve the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis without causing any new issues.

Weight Management

Managing your dog's weight can be an effective method of treating osteoarthritis. Increased weight puts increased stress on your dog's joints so keeping weight at a healthy level will help to minimize the pain caused by the condition.

Your vet may recommend putting your dog on a calorie-reduced diet if their exercise level has been reduced, or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate and omega-3 fatty acids as a way to combat symptoms. 

Physical Rehabilitation

Physical rehabilitation is the name for physiotherapy for dogs and can include a number of treatments that are designed to help reduce pain while strengthening and improving muscle tone, maintaining range of motion and working to improve overall endurance.

Physiotherapy for dogs with osteoarthritis may include one or more of the following treatments: therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage, combined with conventional treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications. 

Speak to your vet about the integrative therapies offered at CASE Hospital.

Surgical Treatments

In some cases when joint damage is particularly extensive your vet may recommend surgery to help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis. Surgery may be performed to remove bone fragments that are aggravating the condition or to replace the affected joints. 

Cold Laser Therapy

Cold (low-level) laser is a drug-free, non-invasive therapy frequently used with rehab patients to increase the quality, speed, and tensile strength of tissue repair. this treatment method is also known to be able to help reduce the inflammation that commonly accompanies osteoarthritis.

This safe, effective and precise integrative therapy can be used to help treat osteoarthritis and manage the pain associated with this condition.

Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

With effective long-term pain management and a little additional care, your dog may be able to enjoy a long and happy life even with osteoarthritis. Speak to your vet to learn more about managing your pup's joint pain, and how you can help your dog to enjoy a happy life for many years to come.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is suffering from the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis or other joint conditions, contact our Crystal Lake vets today to learn about treatment using integrative therapies.

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Companion Animal Specialty and Emergency Hospital is accepting new patients! Our specialists and experienced emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to animal companions in Crystal Lake.

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