Osteoarthritis is a common problem in dogs, particularly in elderly patients and large breeds. Although there is no cure for this progressive condition, identifying the problem early and putting in an appropriate management plan can help keep your dog active and improve quality of life.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, also referred to as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), is a progressively worsening inflammation of the joint caused by the deterioration of cartilage. In a healthy joint, cartilage acts as a cushion to allow the joint to move smoothly through its full range of motion. In cases of osteoarthritis, this cartilage cushion begins to break down because of factors such as age, injury, repetitive stress, or disease. The loss of this protective cushion results in pain, inflammation, decreased range of motion, and the development of bone spurs. While any joint in the body can develop osteoarthritis, the condition most commonly affects the limbs and lower spine.
Osteoarthritis can be difficult to detect in its early stages, and often the symptoms do not become apparent until the affected joint is badly damaged. Some dogs can also be very stoic and will hide their pain until it becomes severe. Thus, it is important to monitor middle-aged to senior dogs and those predisposed to osteoarthritis for early signs of joint disease. These signs include:
- Stiffness, lameness, or difficulty getting up
- Reluctance to run, jump, or play
- Weight gain
- Irritability or changes in behaviour
- Pain when petted or touched
- Difficulty posturing to urinate or defecate, or having accidents in the house
- Loss of muscle mass over the limbs and spine
If you suspect your dog may be exhibiting signs of osteoarthritis, it is important to have your dog checked out by one of our vets, who will perform a full physical examination, including palpating your dog’s joints and assessing their range of motion. Your vet may also recommend X-rays of the affected joints, which will help stage the disease and evaluate the degree of damage to the joint.