It is no secret that we become more prone to contracting various ailments and disease as we age. Therefore, most people are familiar with the terms arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. But, how many people are aware that dogs (and cats) are also prone to chronic degenerative joint disease, such as osteoarthritis?
As loving pet parents, the most rewarding end to a long day, is being greeted by your furry friend, the minute you set foot in the front door. It is very easy to tell just how happy they are to see us, as they can hardly contain their excitement! They run circles around you, bark and jump and would do anything to get your undivided attention.
But, what could be wrong when your beloved pooch no longer greets you at the front door or you notice that your pooch is playing and running around less and less? Your beloved fur baby could possibly have osteoarthritis. Although older dogs are more susceptible to this, younger dogs could also have some form of osteoarthritis. It is estimated that approximately twenty percent of dogs have some form of osteoarthritis and cats are also prone to suffer from it.
Although this is an incurable disease, it can be treated if detected in the early stages and there is a great deal you can do to decrease your beloved fur baby’s discomfort. It is important to be aware of the early warning signs of osteoarthritis, which include the following:
- If your dog shows signs of limping.
- If your dog experiences difficulty walking.
- If your dog experiences difficulty climbing in or out of his or her bed.
- If your dog struggles to climb stairs.
- If your dog has difficulty jumping.
- If your dog has swollen joints and the joints are warm to the touch.
- If your dog continually licks or bites at a joint.
- If your dog moves much slower after sleeping or resting.
- If your beloved fur baby rests more than usual.
- If an elderly dog “bunny hops” with their hind legs, rather than running.
If you notice a change in your fur baby’s personality and/or behavior, you should take your pooch to your local Veterinarian and have him or her examined; rather than ascribing their behavior to aging or something else.
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
Although there are various causes, the main causes of osteoarthritis can be divided into two main categories, as follows:
Abnormal Stress on the Joints
- In this instance it would be due to injury, which has caused damage to (previously) healthy joints.
- One should also consider normal “wear and tear” on the joints – as in humans, when dogs age, their joints are also subjected to repeated stress.
- When an animal suffers from obesity – the heavier an animal, the more pressure is placed on their joints.
Normal Stress, but on Abnormal Joints
- This generally occurs when there is a developmental defect, which alters the shape and/or the stability of the joints. This is one of the reasons why certain large breeds, such as the Great Dane should not exercise excessively and/or jump up until the age of eighteen month. As these activities can severely affect their joint development.
- Dogs can also develop “knock knees” and/or poor limb configuration, which causes an uneven load on the joints.
- The cause could be genetic – as some breeds are more prone to osteoarthritis than others.
It ultimately does not matter what the actual cause of osteoarthritis is, but if not treated in any way, the stress placed on the joints can cause inflammation in the joint area. This results in damage to the cartilage, which can cause your beloved pooch a lot of pain.
In order to help your beloved pooch, there are a number of things you can do as a loving pet parent.
When a dog suffers from osteoarthritis, they tend to become less active, which can result in obesity. However, in order to alleviate the effects of osteoarthritis, you can ensure that your beloved fur baby is on a healthy and balanced diet and that he or she gets enough exercise. Your Veterinarian will be able to guide with regards to the best food and exercise routine. With a healthy, balanced weight, your beloved fur baby will be able to enjoy more mobility with less pain.
Regular moderate exercise will help to strengthen the muscle which surrounds the joints. This in turn will help your beloved pooch become more active again and improve his or her joint mobility. Generally walking and/or swimming is a good form of exercise to consider. As dogs (and cats) can experience more severe pain at certain times, you should also give them a break from exercise for a few days. Your Veterinarian will be able to advise you on the best type and the appropriate amount of exercise for your beloved pooch.
Your Veterinarian will be able to prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, which combats pain and inflammation and improves joint mobility. It can also help to prevent further joint damage. The best option to choose from would be a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, as they are effective in combating pain, but there are less side effects. Your local Veterinarian will be able to prescribe medication best suited for your beloved fur baby.
We may not be able to cure this disease, but we sure can contribute in a very effective way and thus ensure that our beloved fur babies remain mobile and happy!
Love, The PetsWell Team