Understanding Your Dog’s Arthritis
Just like humans, dogs are prone to suffer from arthritis as they get older and older. And while just like humans, all dogs are susceptible to being afflicted by an inflammation of the joints and certain factors can make them more likely to experience it. Larger breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds, obese dogs, and older dogs are all more prone to develop arthritis with years of wear and tear on their joints.
But unlike humans with arthritis, our pets can’t use words to tell us about their pain. And this makes watching them suffer just that much tougher to watch and that much tougher to diagnose. With that said, arming yourself with some knowledge about your dog’s arthritis can only help a challenging situation. Lameness, swollen joints, popping and cracking when the joint moves, muscle wasting (the muscles by the joint become smaller), licking of the joint area, slow to rise up from a resting position, loss of appetite or unusual weight gain, unwillingness to walk, jump, or climb stairs, accidents in the house, whining, panting, or whimpering, and depression or irritation are all signs that your pet may have symptoms of arthritis. These are the four types of arthritis dogs are most likely to endure:
This is a developmental disease that comes from malformation of the hip joints, with cartilage of the joint gradually deteriorating and pain and inflammation coming as a result. Pain medications and several different surgery options are the most common treatments chosen for dogs with hip dysplasia.
Elbow dysplasia is most often a hereditary disease in which bones develop abnormally, bringing misalignment of the joint, damage to the cartilage, and even chipping of the bones, all leading to joint inflammation. This is the most common type of arthritis associated with larger dog breeds with surgery being a common treatment option.
Osteoarthritis, aka degenerative joint disease (DJD):
Osteoarthritis is a longterm deterioration of the cartilage that surrounds your dog’s joints. Once the cartilage is inflamed or has been worn down, your pet will start to experience the pain associated with arthritis.
This is a type of arthritis associated with many smaller breeds, who often have malformed joints. Just like hip and elbow dysplasia, it’s often an inherited defect that brings on arthritis over time. Some dogs can actually develop knees that pop in and out of position regularly, also known as “luxating patella.” When this happens, the dog will walk with a limp until the joint pops back into place — a cycle that can repeat itself and often calls for surgery as a result.
While there are time when arthritis can’t be avoided, owners can help lower the risk of their dog developing this painful disease by making sure they get plenty of low impact exercise, eat properly to support slow growth in puppies and maintain lean body weight, and contacting a veterinarian early when they think their pet may have arthritis.