Arthritis is a degenerative condition which will affect one or more joints. In most cases, this will occur in dogs along with an inherited orthopedic disease like hip dysplasia or osteochondrosis or dogs with joint injuries. Several cases of arthritis are associated with immune-mediated joint diseases or an infection of the joint.
Degenerative Joint Disease or Osteoarthritis
This is a common disease which will affect one dog out of five during their existence. The problem is not actually confined to older dogs. Even in young dogs the causes of degenerative arthritis will include ruptured cruciate ligaments, joint trauma, patella luxation, hip dysplasia and other joint conditions. Dogs which are large-breed are more frequently affected in comparison to the small dogs. Heavy dogs will possibly experience the symptoms due to the added strain placed on the joints and ligaments.
Dogs that have degenerative arthritis can experience different degrees of joint pain; stiffness and lameness which could be more apparent in the morning and after dogs get up from a nap. They frequently will show irritability as well as changes in behavior which can be associated with an increasing disability. Surroundings which are cold and damp can increase the pain and stiffness. Degenerative arthritis can be progressive and eventually will make the life of a dog miserable.
The diagnosis can be made through joint X-rays which will show bone spurs at points where the ligaments and the joint capsules are attached to the bone. There could be different degrees of narrowing in joint spaces and also increased density of bones surrounding the joints.
Treatment of Osteoarthritis
Degenerative joint disease is actually incurable but the treatment will significantly improve the life of a dog. Treatment will include physical therapy and control of weight, intake of analgesics and corticosteroids in order to relieve pain and will improve function. The use of chondroprotective agents can be done in repairing joint cartilage and in preventing further damage. Another therapy which has shown good results for arthritic dogs is acupuncture. All the things being mentioned should be used simultaneously.
Both acupuncture and physical therapy are alternative or additional methods in making arthritic dogs comfortable.
In severe cases, fusion of painful joints done surgically like the hock or elbow can provide relief from pain and will restore the movement of limbs in some dogs.
Moderate exercises are beneficial because they can maintain the muscle mass and be able to preserve the flexibility of joints. However, excessive exercise will result to being counterproductive. Arthritic dogs must not be permitted to jump up and down and should not be encouraged to stand up using their back legs. Dogs that are experiencing pain and lameness should be exercised while on leash or harness. There are veterinary physical therapists who will be able to assist in designing exercise as well as weight loss programs.
Swimming is considered to be an excellent exercise which will improve the muscle mass without putting too much stress on the joints. Exercises may be increased as the dog will improve by the use of medications.
Dogs that are overweight must be encouraged to lose weight. Being overweight will seriously complicate the treatment for osteoarthritis.
This is an uncommon group of diseases wherein the antibodies are directed against the dog’s own connective tissue and will result to either an erosive or non-erosive arthritis. In erosive arthritis, both surfaces of the joint and cartilage are destroyed. While in non-erosive arthritis, there is no apparent inflammation but there is destruction of tissues.