The Five-Minute Complete Pet Owner's Guide To Osteoarthritis In Dogs

Osteoarthritis in dogs is a common joint disease, particularly as pets age. It is a degenerative joint disorder that any responsible dog owner must be aware of.

Just like in humans, osteoarthritis in dogs can cause discomfort, chronic pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility, impacting their overall quality of life. As responsible pet owners, it's essential to recognize the signs of osteoarthritis and take steps to manage the condition effectively.

What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition and joint disorder that causes lameness, swollen joints, refusal to walk or play, and joint damage in the long term. It is a progressive and irreversible condition where deterioration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone occurs.

Over time, this leads to inflammation, joint pain, and reduced joint mobility. While osteoarthritis is more commonly seen in older pets, it can also develop as a result of injury, genetic predisposition, or obesity in younger dogs.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting dogs. It is estimated that up to 20-30% of dogs over the age of one year suffer from osteoarthritis.

The Relationship to Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia

Primary osteoarthritis develops with age and is often linked to the natural wear and tear of joints. Secondary osteoarthritis, which is more common, results from an underlying joint condition or injury, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, ligament injuries, or fractures.

When a dog has hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia, the constant rubbing and friction between the malformed joint surfaces can cause chronic inflammation and progressive damage to the joint cartilage. This damage triggers the body's repair mechanisms, which often result in the bone spurs and changes in the bone. These changes are characteristic of dog's osteoarthritis.

The affected joints must be evaluated through a physical examination by a vet while taking into consideration clinical signs and risk factors. Tests [like x-rays or use of clinical metrology instrument(s)] may be necessary to get a diagnosis of canine osteoarthritis.

Prevention of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

To prevent your dog from developing osteoarthritis it is important to maintain a healthy weight, exercise your dog regularly, plan routine vet checkups, avoid joint stress (excessive jumping or climbing) and awareness of your dog's breed.

Keep in mind that there may be a genetic component and larger breeds are more susceptible to develop osteoarthritis. Certain breeds are more prone to developing osteoarthritis due to their genetic predisposition to joint issues. Breeds like German Shepherds, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers are among those at higher risk, and dog owners of these breeds should be particularly proactive in preventive care.

Improving muscle tone through routine, low impact excercise, and avoiding overexertion in young dogs should always be at the forefront. This will safeguard your dog's joints in old age.

As a progressive disease, early diagnosis will always play the most important role in successful treatment of this degenerative condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Canine OA (Osteoarthritis)

Knowing what the signs and risk factors of osteoarthritis in dogs looks like is crucial for early intervention and management. Common symptoms in dogs with osteoarthritis include limping and stiffness due to joint pain, reluctance to move or exercise, decreased activity levels, difficulty rising or climbing stairs, and behavioral changes such as irritability or aggression, particularly when touched in painful areas like an affected joint.

Managing and Treating Joint Pain

While osteoarthritis cannot be cured, a dog's osteoarthritis symptoms can be managed effectively with proper veterinary care, physical rehabilitation and lifestyle adjustments. The end goal is to manage pain or achieve pain control, reduce risk factors for further injury, and prevent permanent deterioration and slow progression to severe osteoarthritis.

Your veterinarian may recommend a combination of treatments tailored to your pet's specific needs, including:

1.) Pain management medications and supplements

To achieve a reduction in osteoarthritis pain, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and joint supplements such as glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, must be used. All can help reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and support joint health. Buddy Guard can also help manage this condition in conjunction with the recommended veterinary regimen. Many of the mushrooms in Buddy Guard have anti-inflammatory properties and have shown promise in reducing pain.

2.) Weight management

Pets with osteoarthritis must maintain a healthy weight, as excess weight will add strain on their joints. Your veterinarian can provide guidance on appropriate diet and exercise routines to help your pet reach and maintain their appropiate weight. A calorie-reduced diet can easily help lower your dog's weight and increase your dog's mobility. Weight management is of utmost importance to alleviate a pet's pain. As weight decreases so does a dog's joint pain. As Buddy Guard has been shown to increase energy levels, pets may also be more predisposed to play or exercise more when using Buddy Guard. This will lead a pet to reach a healthy weight and improve muscle tone.

3.) Physical rehabilitation

Gentle exercise, massage, hydrotherapy, and other physical therapy or physical rehabilitation modalities (eg. underwater treadmill or pool therapy with therapeutic exercises) can help improve joint flexibility, strengthen and increase muscle mass, and alleviate osteoarthritis pain in those joints affected.

4.) Alternative medicine treatments

Homeopathy, acupuncture, laser therapy, medicinal mushrooms (eg. Buddy Guard) and CBD have been used to combat symptoms and reduce pain in affected joints.

5.) Joint support aids

Orthopedic bedding, ramps or steps to assist with mobility and joint-supportive supplements can all contribute to your pet's comfort and mobility while also providing pain relief.

6.) Regular veterinary check-ups

Schedule regular check-ups and a physical exam with your veterinarian to monitor your pet's condition and adjust treatment plans as needed. A combination of many of the treatment options is necessary to achieve relief. Although there is no one-size-fits-all treatment, osteoarthritis is a manageable condition once we attack that which is causing pain.

Osteoarthritis in dogs is a common yet manageable painful condition. Pet owners can help support their furry companions' comfort and mobility, allowing them to enjoy an active, long, and happy life for years to come. It is always best to consult with your veterinarian for recommendations unique to your pet's specific needs.

New Advances in Veterinary Medicine

Veterinary medicine is advancing rapidly and new treatments are always evolving. Newer treatments, like monoclonal antibody (anti-nerve growth factor medication to reduce OA pain) or hyaluronic acid injections and platelet-rich plasma treatments (or other regenerative therapy), may be worth looking into to manage and decrease pain in dogs with osteoarthritis. New techniques in physical rehabilitation and therapy are also constantly being developed.

While none will cure the joint damage caused by severe osteoarthritis, they show promise as successful treatment options in many dogs with this degenerative joint disorder when used in conjunction with other treatments mentioned.


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Written by Mariana Bobadilla
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