Dog arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that can result in pain and a reduced quality of life for your dog. It causes stiffness in the joints, which can make everyday activities, such as playing, running, climbing and even walking, unbearable for a dog. Although arthritis cannot be cured, it can be treated through diet, moderate exercise and medications.
Types of arthritis
Here are the main types of arthritis found in dogs.
- Osteoarthritis - This is the most common form of arthritis in dogs. It results in the loss of cartilage between the bones. Cartilage acts as a buffer to protect bones. When the cartilage wears away, swelling and pain develop. Obesity and wear and tear are the most common causes.
- Rheumatoid arthritis - This form of arthritis is caused by a problem with the dog's immune system. The body attacks healthy cells and tissue, resulting in a slow erosion of the bones' cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis is most common in smaller dogs.
- Infective arthritis - This is caused by a type of infection in the joints. It can be caused by an injury to the joint or affect the dog through the bloodstream. It can cause lameness and if left untreated, can be life-threatening or result in amputation of the joint.
- Acute traumatic arthritis - This is caused by trauma to the joint. The trauma can be repetitive motion or a one-time incident, such as a car accident. It often starts out with symptoms such as pain and swelling. It is important to have the dog treated promptly to prevent long-term damage to the affected joint.
- Drug-induced arthritis - Some antibiotics, including penicillin, cause arthritis as a side effect. However, this is rare and once the antibiotics are discontinued, the dog returns to normal health.
- Idiopathic arthritis - This is a type of arthritis with no known cause. A vet will often make this diagnosis after all diagnosis options have been exhausted.
There are several medications often used to improve mobility and reduce pain caused by arthritis. Aspirin is the most commonly-used drug, but it does carry the risk of side effects. Carprofen and Etodolac considered to be very safe and are more powerful than aspirin.
Glyco-flex and Cosequin include glucosamine and chondroitin as their main ingredients. These dietary supplements help build new cartilage in the dog's joints. Adequan is effective if used in the early stages of dog arthritis. It works to prevent inflammation and destruction of cartilage.
Surgery can be performed in some cases. Some dog owners have also used acupuncture with favorable results, but there is little scientific evidence supporting it as a viable form of arthritis treatment.
Work with your vet to create a diet and exercise plan for your dog. Your dog will still need daily exercise, but it cannot be too strenuous, or it can cause further damage to your dog's joints. A healthy, balanced diet will keep your dog fit and help him shed some pounds if he is overweight. Being overweight causes extra pressure on the joints and can exacerbate the pain and inflammation. By following your vet's recommendations, your dog can still live a long and fulfilling life despite having arthritis.