If your dog experiences difficulty getting up, tires easily or seems stiff, arthritis may be the culprit. The most common type of canine arthritis is degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage protecting the bones of the joint is destroyed. The joint loses its cushion, causing friction between bones, leading to pain and decreased mobility in affected joints. Inflammation of the cartilage can also stimulate bony growths (spurs) to form around the joints. Although any joint in a dog’s body can be affected by arthritis, the most commonly affected joints are the hips, elbows, lower back, knees and wrists.
Factors contributing to a dog developing arthritis include aging, congenital joint disorders (eg hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis, elbow dysplasia), old injuries, repeated trauma to joints, activity levels in working and athletic dogs placing increased stress on joints, and obesity.
Arthritis symptoms include stiffness, lameness or limping after rest, inactivity and sleeping more; reluctance to walk, run or climb stairs, unusual urinating in the house; and irritability and other behavioural changes.
Non-medical approaches to minimize arthritic aches and pains include:
- Weight control. If your dog is overweight, this puts added stresses on joints, causing greater joint damage and more severe arthritis.
- Exercise. Light to moderate exercise helps keep stiff joints supple and mobile. The exact exercise requirements depend on the individual dog, with 15 to 20 minutes of exercise twice daily often recommended, rather than one long, 40-minute walk. Ideal is swimming, a low-impact activity that improves muscle mass without overstressing joints.
- Natural over-the-counter treatments. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements such as Glyde.
Medically managing canine arthritis is aimed at controlling pain, increasing mobility, slowing down joint degeneration and encouraging cartilage repair. Options include:
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs – medication to reduce the discomfit and thereby improve mobility.
- Chondroprotectants – we utilise a product called Zydax which contains Pentosan Polysulphate. This medication significantly increases cartilage restoration and reduces chemical substances that can influence pain signals and regulate inflammation.