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Arthritis (Dogs)

Osteoarthritis is defined as a degenerative condition of the joints in which the normal cartilage cushion in the joint breaks down. Eventually, adjacent bones rub against each other, causing pain, decreased joint movement, and sometimes the formation of bone spurs and other changes around the joint. It is a progressive disease; however, it can be actively managed so that the course of the disease is slowed and remaining joint function is preserved.

Because we see our pets each day, subtle changes are even more challenging to notice, but if your dog exhibits any of the following, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your veterinarian:

  • Changes in chewing, eating and/or drinking habits
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Withdrawal from social interaction or avoiding being touched
  • Changes in activity level
  • Changes in sleeping habits (sleeping more or hyperactivity)
  • Increased vocalization
  • Increased urination and/or ’accidents’
  • Just not acting normal

A common symptom of osteoarthritis in dogs is lameness, but this symptom is not seen as often in cats.

AAHA-accredited practices are encouraged to consider pain as the fourth vital sign they check for in each examination. The other three vital signs are temperature, pulse and respiration. You may not always be aware that they’re checking your pet’s pain level, but they are. They may examine your pet and also ask you questions to determine if pain is a possibility. Because pets differ in how they show pain, and some do such a good job hiding it, you may never realize they are in pain if you’re not specifically looking for it.

Arthritis from WDDC on Vimeo.

Pain is complex. The body manufactures many different chemicals and receptors and even has different types of nerves to transmit pain information to the brain. Pain serves a function – preservation. It is designed to let the body know that an area is injured so that it is not overused and further damaged. Inflammation serves as the first stage of healing, to bring blood and nutrients to an area of injury. However, ultimately, pain and inflammation can both get out of hand.

It's important to work with your veterinarian to design a pain management program. This can include the following:

  • Weight loss if your dog is overweight
  • Increasing exercise and play
  • Moving food and water dishes to a more convenient location and providing soft or therapeutic bedding
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