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Types of Arthritis – Canine Osteoarthritis

When older dogs become stiff legged, unwilling to negotiate stairs or slow to get up in the morning many owners assume canine arthritis is to blame.    Arthritis comes in various guises, some more easily treatable than others, so it is critical for your dog that you find out which form of arthritis  they are suffering from.

Dogs with arthritis should be under veterinary supervision but that doesn’t mean you cannot help your dog further.  Understanding what the problem is, and how to improve your dogs outlook with non-medicinal care is as important as any arthritis medication.

The primary forms of arthritis canines suffer from are:

There are several subdivision of each form of canine arthritis, depending on what has caused the problem and where it is primarily located.  By far the most common form of arthritis is canine osteoarthritis.

Arthritis – Canine Osteoarthritis

This is the arthritis we associate with older dogs.  Years of jumping, playing and general dog behavoir lead to a gradual wearing down of the cartilage in the joints.   Although commonly associated with old age, this can also occur in younger animals.

Cartilage has no nerves so your dog will not show signs of pain till the disease has progressed quite far.  With cartilage damaged, fluid may be lost from the joint causing bones to rub each other.  This can cause further complications as bones develop miss-shapen growths, in turn causing more damage to the joint.

In younger dogs, this form of arthritis is associated with malformation of the joints due to poor breeding or damage to ligaments due to injury or obesity.

Causes of Osteoarthritis for Dogs

Generally this form of arthritis for dogs is caused either by some abnormal activity damaging an ordinary joint, or by ordinary activity damaging an abnormal one.

The first case is associated with old age, gradual over-use, a life-time of jumping over obstacles or an injury causing damage to the joints.  If a ligament has been torn or a joint dislocated during an injury surgery may be able to rectify the problem before it causes arthritis to progress.

The second case is associated more commonly with certain breeds which have a dispensation for developing abnormal joints or skeletal malformations.  Problems such as hip dysplasia mean the joint just does not function correctly even with only gentle activity, leading to the development of osteoarthritis as dogs use the malformed joint.

Treating Dogs with Arthritis

If a specific injury has caused the problem, surgery may be able to help your dog.  For many cases of arthritis, canine patients are not cured but simply ‘managed’.

Pain medication and anti-inflammatories are usual drug treatments for dogs with osteoarthritis.  In addition, newer food supplements which promote cartilage growth lubrication of the joints can help.  But there is more which can be done.

The overweight dog obviously puts its joints at much more stress than they are designed for.  The first step in treating dogs with arthritis is to ensure their weight is controlled to minimise stress to the joints during normal activity.  Vets will always advise keeping dogs at their optimal weight through diet and exercise.  An overweight dog is more likely to be unhealthy generally and will definitely be more likely to suffer from joint problems over time.

Gentle exercise, particularly swimming are useful for building strength without putting more stress on the joints.  Walking and gentle jogging are good, but erratic activities such as jumping or twisting which are common when playing with other dogs should be avoided.

Massage and acupuncture may help canine arthritis sufferers too.  Helping your dog remain comfortable is of primary importance.  A warm, firm bed is important, some pet owners even use orthopaedic dog beds which use modern foams to support the dog.  Ramps can be useful for helping dogs in and out of cars or to avoid steps if the arthritis has progressed significantly.

We will look more at the various arthritis treatments for dogs in a separate article here at Online Pet Meds.

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