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.