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  • Writer's pictureTudor Hydrotherapy

Osteoarthritis: what, where, when & how?

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

"Arthritis (osteoarthritis – OA) is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs. It affects 4 out of 5 older dogs. It is a disabling, non-curable, and progressive disease which initially focuses on moving joints but eventually affects the whole dog and is a major cause of euthanasia due to loss of quality of life."

What is Osteoarthritis and which breeds are affected?

Arthritis is a life, long degenerative disease of the joints causing, swelling, pain, inflammation and stiffness. A healthy joint surface is smooth and allows the opposing bone to glide over the smooth surface. An arthritic joint has an uneven and worn down surface causing the bones to rub against one another causing inflammation and pain. As the disease progresses the surface becomes hardened and stiff as the body has produced new bone that isn't needed, in response to the inflammation. This inevitably causes further pain. Large to medium breeds, such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers and Spaniels are predisposed to arthritis.

Where does OA start?

Arthritis usually forms initially in the moving joints, such as the hips, knees, elbows and shoulders. As it progresses it will develop in to the less mobile joints such as the spine and feet and is one of the most common reasons for euthanasia in pets. Arthritis is a chronic pain, it is consistent and low-intensity which makes it hard to identify, it is often comparable to dental pain in humans. Things appear normal from the outside but we adapt the way we eat, sleep, talk and behave to accommodate the pain.

"Osteoarthritis affects 1 in 5 dogs, and its prevalence increases as dogs age; it is therefore very likely your dog has or will get osteoarthritis."

When does arthritis begin?

Arthritis unfortunately plays the long game and reveals itself later in its course. It can present in dogs as young as 4 or 5 years old, some even younger in developmental cases. The initial changes to the joints are internal and so we as owners cannot see this happening. Especially as your dog has 4 legs, so they are able to shift weight on/off other legs to relieve the pain, many owners don't tend to notice this.

It is often in advance stages when owners pick up on the signs such as .....

  • Unwilling to exercise

  • Doesn't want to play

  • Changes to the way they move

  • Difficulty getting up from rest

  • Slowing down and looking stiff

  • Depressive, low mood

  • Restless and pacing

  • Lameness

  • Muscle wastage


How do i cure arthritis?

It cannot be cured. Arthritis is a progressive disease and will lead to a decreased quality of life. If you can get an early diagnosis it can be treated accordingly and effectively with pain relieving medication, this also includes changes to your dogs lifestyle and routine to reduce the speed at which it progresses. These changes include reducing exposure to slippery floors, stairs, heavy long walks (especially on pavements) and providing good nutrition. The use of joint supplements is widely used to decrease the rate of the disease as well as Hydrotherapy, which provides a non-concussive environment for exercise, therefore relieving the pressure on the painful joints.

It is all too common that as the disease advances and your dog is doing less exercise, we forget to reduce their calorie intake and then we have an overweight dog on already painful joints, we can't encourage them to exercise more to lose weight because it's too's a vicious circle!

The best advice i can give is to get an early diagnosis and learn to manage it. Don't be afraid to go to the vets and tell them you think your dog is in pain. That one consultation could tell you that your dog has OA, and then you can start to make changes and do the best for your dog to prolong their quality of life, even if that is simply adapting your home and exercise routine. Don't wait until it's too late, learn what the signs of pain are in your dog and look out for them!!

Check out the Canine Arthritis Management website for everything you need to know about Osteoarthritis.

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