Canine Osteoarthritis

Signs to look out for in your senior dog

Is your dog getting old or is it something else? As dogs get older, many owners think they're bound to suffer from a few aches and pains, become less active or generally lose their get up and go. But it s not always age that is the culprit. It could be osteoarthritis! Suffering from osteoarthritis often leads to pain and decreased flexibility, which makes walking, running and generally getting around more difficult than usual. Could your dog enjoy life more?

What is Canine Osteoarthritis (OA)?

Canine OA is a chronic, degenerative joint disease that causes pain and swelling in the soft tissues and bones of a dog's joints. The stifle (knee), elbow and hips are the most commonly affected joints although OA could affect any joint in your dog's body. Osteoarthritis can affect any dog — cross-breed, pedigree, big or small – although it's more common in older dogs and larger breeds. The signs can be hard to spot, because dogs are genetically programmed not to show pain. Instead, they express pain through changes in behaviour, such as becoming withdrawn or less playful.

If you see changes in your dog's demeanour or mobility, ask one of our vets to check for osteoarthritis. This can allow for appropriate investigation, such as x-rays to be arranged as well as starting appropriate therapy. Some of the signs to look out for:

  • Change in demeanour
  • Lethargy
  • Stiffness, especially after rest
  • Reluctance to move / Limping
  • Abnormal vocalisation
  • Aggressive or defensive when touched

Plan ahead

Treatments that reduce pain and inflammation to help improve mobility have been at the heart of osteoarthritis therapy for many years. Happily of course, things don't stand still, so we are always looking for improved therapies or combinations to help your dog. If you think your dog may have osteoarthritis, or if the condition has already been diagnosed, please ask of our vets about the range of treatment options that we offer.

What treatments can we offer?

  • Access to a wide range of anti-inflammatory/painkiller medications
  • High quality animal specific joint supplements
  • Courses of disease-modifying drugs
  • Physiotherapy
  • Weight clinics and dietary advice
  • Intra-articular (into the joint) injections
  • Surgery including arthroscopy (examination of the joint using an endoscope)
  • Referral to specialist centres

A weighty problem

It's no surprise that excess weight aggravates joint problems. If a joint is not working efficiently, carrying that excess causes additional pain and damage. So it's very important that your dog maintains his or her ideal weight. You should refrain from overfeeding young dogs and avoid over-supplementation with calcium and protein. Feeding your dog smaller portions of less fattening food, as well as cutting out treats, is the best way to control dietary intake and bodyweight. Exercise is also important for dogs with osteoarthritis. As well as aiding weight control, regular, gentle exercise helps to maintain mobility. Joints that do not have regular movement may stiffen up and the dog will then become less active.

We run weight clinics with our nurses who are happy to offer friendly practical advice on diets appropriate for your dog. Information about specialist diets can be found here. If you require anymore information come and talk to us.

What about cats?

It is becoming increasingly recognised that cats too can suffer from osteoarthritis. The signs that cats exhibit can be much the same as dogs. Therapy again centres on pain relief with consideration given to weight control and the use of supplements as required too.

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