Canine Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the condition of deterioration of joint surfaces and bones that occurs relatively frequently in our canine patients. Many breeds are predisposed to osteoarthritis while others may become susceptible after an injury such as being hit by a car or tearing the cruciate ligament in the knee.

Due to their nature, most animals do NOT outwardly show signs of osteoarthritis until they are moderately to severely affected. This is a protective mechanism. We try to examine ALL susceptible patients at their routine examinations. This helps to identify subtle changes in their daily activities (for example going up and down stairs) as well as determine if they have any decrease in the range of motion of their joints or loss of muscle tone from misuse.

In osteoarthritis, changes occur in the joint cavity resulting in damage to the cartilagenous surfaces of the bone. Like a machine with moveable parts, the joints need significant lubrication to work best. Erosions as well as boney projections can occur on the joint surfaces triggering inflammation as well as discomfort when there is movement or motion of the joint. If significant, the animal will avoid moving the joint as it should be and cause a reduction in the range of motion that the joint should have. This is most commonly seen when an animal no longer able to jump into the family car or is very stiff when it rises after a nap.

Fortunately there are ways to treat as well as to help delay the onset of arthritis in our dogs.

If your pet is already showing signs of osteoathritis, # 1 and #2 still do apply! Although your pet may not be able to walk or swim as far, it is important to still get out there and exercise. It helps to prevent further muscle loss due to inactivity.

To help:

  1. Keep your pet at a reasonable weight.
  2. Exercise regularly. Minimal impact activities such as walking and swimming can be beneficial. There are therapeutic water facilities that do exist for dogs to have water therapy!
  3. Consider supplementing your pet with a nutraceutical joint supplement or chondroprotective agent (protects chondrocytes=joint cells). This include products such a glycoflex and jointagen made by Vetri-Science. (See info under nutrition on our website).

There is a class of drugs called NSAIDS or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They are relatively new to the profession but they are excellent in safety as well as efficacy. They have been able to replace treatments with steroids and other drugs that actually contributed to joint damage in the past. There are several available with a few just entering the veterinary market this year. The goal of treatment with these medications are to treat pain and allow return to function the best way possible. While there are potential side effects, the safety and efficacy of these drugs have been proven. Patients need to have their blood tested before and during treatment. Some patients may be on the meds short term after a surgery while others may be on them the rest of their life.

Remember that although slowing down is a normal part of aging, we have treatments available to help alleviate any discomfort and enhance the quality of our dog’s lives. Pain is Not helpful to the body or the mind.

Individual animals may have variable response to the same NSAID. This is similar to human responses to NSAID that we may take for headache pain such as Tylenol or motrin. Although in the same class of drug, NO HUMAN DRUG SHOULD BE GIVEN UNLESS PRESCRIBED BY YOUR VETERINARIAN. There are different pathways the drug is used in each different species. Unfortunately, at this time, our feline patients are not able to safely tolerate any NSAIDS that are available. Ongoing research is being done to fix this!

If you have any questions about your dog’s mobility, please call the office to set up a consult.

You may also be interested in learning more about canine osteoarthritis at these websites:www.rimadyl.com or www.deramaxx.com