Canine arthritis is a common problem that affects many older dogs and larger breeds. However, it can be a treatable condition when detected early and managed properly.
Joint pain, stiffness and inflammation are the main symptoms of canine arthritis. These changes can occur in any of the dog’s joints including the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows.
Arthritis develops because the cartilage surrounding a joint gets damaged and worn away. Cartilages cushion the ends of bones to allow movement and are essential to maintaining joint health.
The cartilage can also wear down as a result of age and other factors like trauma or developmental abnormalities. These conditions are often genetic and can be exacerbated by other factors such as obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise.
Managing canine arthritis involves maintaining a healthy body weight and preventing the condition from getting worse. This can be achieved by ensuring the dog is at their optimal weight (as determined by your vet) and keeping them active through a well-balanced exercise regime, combined with protective joint supplements to help support the joint’s natural lubrication.
There are several medications available to manage the condition and reduce pain, swelling and discomfort in affected joints. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as meloxicam, carprofen and deracoxib, can be used to relieve inflammation in the affected joints and are most commonly prescribed by your vet.
Diet, exercise and pain control are also important in reducing pain associated with canine arthritis. Your veterinarian may prescribe a specific dietary plan to normalize your dog’s weight and condition, and can recommend nutritional supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin to assist with the maintenance of joint health and strength.
Prescription medication can also be administered to reduce the pain and inflammation of canine arthritis. These medications can be given in pill form or as liquid drops and should be taken regularly to prevent your dog from developing a dependency on them.
If the condition is severe, your vet may recommend surgery to alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of osteoarthritis in the affected joint(s). This can include removing bone fragments that are causing damage or replacing the affected joint(s) for improved mobility and quality of life.
Other treatment modalities include therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, physiotherapy and acupuncture, in conjunction with conventional treatments such as prescription medications and NSAIDs. These treatments can be provided by a veterinary rehabilitative specialist to help your dog maintain their strength and mobility.
A veterinary rehabilitative specialist can design a rehabilitation program to address your dog’s needs and goals, including increasing mobility, improving balance, reducing stiffness and restoring joint function. Your veterinary surgeon may also recommend surgical procedures such as arthroscopic surgery to correct a fractured or dislocated shoulder, knee or elbow.
There is no cure for canine arthritis, but symptom management can help to improve your dog’s quality of life and ensure they remain comfortable as they get older. Using a multi-modal approach to management of canine arthritis is the most effective way to treat your dog and slow their progress towards becoming disabled.