Arthritis in Dogs
Today, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine and companion animal care, many dogs are living longer and reach an old age. On the downside it also increases the odds that they will suffer from some form of degenerative joint disease (DJD), or osteoarthritis.
There are several types of canine arthritis, but in this blog, we will discuss the most common, the age-related degenerative form, also called degenerative joint disease (DJD).
Arthritis (or osteoarthritis) in dogs is a painful, progressive inflammation in the joint, which normally goes together with degeneration of the joint cartilage. It is the most common cause of lameness in the dog: 1 out of 5 dogs are affected.
Arthritis can develop in one or more joint and will cause pain, stiffness, swollen joints, lameness and a reduced mobility. All this together will lead to a reduced quality of life and will affect the dog on his daily walks, swims and runs.
Quite often the owners do not recognize the symptoms and abusively attribute these symptoms to ‘ageing’.
So it is very important to be alert and to recognize the possible symptoms of arthritis:
1. reduced activity level of your dog
2. the dog does not want to walk, to run, to climb stairs etc.
5. difficulties to get up
6. walking slowly during a walk and not able to catch up
7. pain when touched
8. aggressive ….
A physical examination by one of our vets will give you an idea whether you dog is suffering of arthritis or not. Dogs react when the affected joints get touched. Also a limitation in movement and a crepitus (a crackling or grating sensation felt within the joint) can be a sign of arthritis. When the joint is not used on a proper way, there will be some muscle atrophy visible as well. Joint can even be swollen when there is a lot of bone remodeling. To confirm an X-ray has to be taken. Although the disease is incurable, there are many possibilities for pain relief, to slow down the inflammation and to improve the quality of life of your dog:
1. Reduced load. By reducing the body weight of your dog you decrease the stress on the joint. To control the body weight of your dog is very important.
2. Controlled exercise. High-impact exercise should be discouraged, although controlled exercise will help to strengthen the muscles and ligaments. Also physiotherapy can be very useful.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are the most commonly used supplements that help decrease the inflammation in the joints and improve the body’s ability to repair and strengthen tissues. The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA) have also been documented to be of help in dogs with arthritis. These are included in some canine arthritis diets (i.e. Royal Canine Mobility diet) but to be effective, higher levels via separate supplements may be needed.
– Anti-inflammatory drugs.
Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs are highly effective at reducing inflammation and pain, but they can cause adverse gastro intestinal effects.
Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Corticosteroids can decrease the inflammation, but they have a “breakdown” effect on body tissues, including joints so they are not widely recommended.
– Pentosan polysulfate (Cartrophen) might be an option as well. It is a disease modifying osteoarthritis drug (DMOAD) and importantly, it helps maintain joint health, including preserving joint cartilage that is damaged by the arthritic process.
– Chondroprotective drug. Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan (Adequan) injections have long been considered the gold standard for treating arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases in dogs.