What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition affecting the joints. It is commonly seen in older pets as a result of chronic wear and tear on cartilage, which is the “shock absorber” of the joint. When the cartilage begins to break down, inflammation in the joint and bones sets in, eventually leading to chronic pain from arthritis. Arthritis can affect any joint, but most commonly affects the stifles (knees), hips, elbows, and spine.
What are the signs of arthritis in dogs?
Signs of arthritis can include:
– Stiffness when walking (which may improve once the pet has “warmed up”)
– Slow to rise after lying down
– Not wanting to walk as long or play as much
– Difficulty climbing stairs, getting into the car, or jumping onto a bed or sofa
– Licking joints
What can be done to help my dog with arthritis?
Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but it can be managed to give your dog the best quality of life as possible. It is best managed with a multi-faceted approach, which may include:
– Weight loss, if indicated. Many pets with arthritis are overweight, and weight reduction can greatly improve symptoms without the use of medication. Ask your veterinarian if your pet should start a weight-loss regimen.
– Controlled exercise: Low impact exercise, such as swimming or walking through shallow water, is best because it reduces the “pounding” motion on the joints but improves muscle tone. Leash walking, generally for one mile or less at a time, is also recommended to keep muscles strong.
– Nutraceuticals: Dasuquin, a supplement containing glucosamine/chrondroitin sulfate, is generally recommended for all patients with arthritis. This supplement supports cartilage and reduces inflammation in the joint. Since over-the-counter and human products do not demonstrate the same efficacy, we recommend Dasuquin.
– Prescription medications: Often, prescription medications are needed to reduce pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Your veterinarian will likely require bloodwork when starting a pain medication, and then every 6 months thereafter to ensure the medication can be safely continued.
– Chiropractic care (VOM): This alternative therapy can be very beneficial for patients with arthritis, particularly arthritis affecting the spine. Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation (VOM) can reduce inflammation in a natural way. Ask your veterinarian if this would be a good option for your pet.