Osteoarthritis in Dogs
Osteoarthritis forms when the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of bones wears away. Your vet will diagnose arthritis by use of both X rays and consideration of the symptoms. It is important to consider both the X rays and symptoms together as some will have poor X rays with few symptoms and some vice versa.
Although ageing is the most common cause of arthritis there are other causes. Congenital conditions such as hip dysplasia will occur before 1 year of age as will elbow dysplasia and OCD where as conditions that form after a year are usually secondary. Trauma can cause earlier onset and working and performance dogs are more prone to undiagnosed injuries. Obese dogs are more prone so weight management is also key in prevention.
Signs your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis may be stiffness after inactivity, avoidance of activities, limping, pain on palpation, muscle weakness or atrophy, licking or chewing of their joints, increased aggression or increased resting.
A diagnosis is not the end of a dog's active life but some changes in lifestyle may help control your dog's pain levels and therefore help in managing the condition. During a flare up the dog must rest and they may need medication from the vet. Regular checks from a complementary therapist such as McTimoney, physiotherapy and massage may help as a maintenance but should not necessarily be used in a flare up.
Exercise may need to be modified but maintaining muscle strength is important. It is important to keep moving without over doing it so watch your dog's responses to exercise to keep them most comfortable. If exercise makes the condition worse up to 24 hours later then reduce the exercise. Weight shifting exercises can be good as they engage the muscles without a lot of impact on the joints. Treats, out of the daily food ration, can be used to move the head and shift body weight from side to side or up and down. Always watch your dog for their muscles getting tired and change the exercise if they start to tire, sit or lie down. When walking, walk on softer surfaces like grass rather than on the road or concrete so there is less concussion.
Above all watch and read your dog for signs of discomfort and be prepared to alter their exercise appropriately. Keep in contact with your complementary therapist and vet to help maintain strength and manage pain relief during flare ups or when necessary.