Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when the articular cartilage protecting the bones gradually deteriorates. As the cartilage wears down, it causes joint inflammation, pain and eventually the loss of motion.
So what are the symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs?
• Stiffness, lameness, limping, or difficulty getting up
• Reluctance to run, jump, or play
• Weight gain
• Irritability or changes in behavior
• Pain when petted or touched
• Difficulty posturing to urinate or defecate, or having accidents in the house
• Loss of muscle mass over the limbs and spine
Diagnosis of OA is usually made by a combination of history, physical exam and various imaging modalities.
• Initially, a physical exam will orient towards the affected joint or joints. The veterinarian will palpate the limbs and joints to assess for painful response, thickening of the joint capsule, accumulation of joint fluid (effusion) or sometimes osteophytes and muscle atrophy (wasting).
• The most common imaging modality used is X-ray. These are of limited use though, because they only give information on bone structural changes (osteophytosis) and show only limited soft tissue changes, therefore, should be combined with physical exam findings.
• Other diagnostic tools becoming more popular include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which can provide information regarding soft tissue structures (ligaments, menisci) and computed tomography (CT) that is good for assessing bone structural changes in joints with more complex anatomy such as elbows, carpi (wrists) or tarsi (ankles).
Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is a progressive disease and there is no known cure. Preventing the development of osteoarthritis through diet, exercise, and the use of protective joint supplements the best way to keep your dog’s joints healthy. When osteoarthritis develops, treatment is typically focused on controlling pain, decreasing inflammation, improving quality of life, and slowing the development of the disease. Treatment of osteoarthritis is usually multimodal, meaning that several different therapies are used simultaneously in order to achieve the best outcome.
Joint supplements are often prescribed to improve function, reduce inflammation, and slow the progression of joint damage. Glucosamine and chondroitin are two common joint supplement ingredients that are used in both humans and dogs. These supplements work by reducing inflammation, promoting healing, and increasing water retention in the cartilage, which provides more cushioning for the joint. Another one, MSM reduces inflammation and works in multiple ways to help your dog. It works as a powerful antioxidant, detoxifier and natural pain reliever.
Our blend of organic hemp seed powder, Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Turmeric, and MSM provides pain relief for hips and joints in your dog and are often used as an early intervention and throughout the progression of osteoarthritis because they are safe for long-term use in most dogs.
In addition to the use of joint supplements, pain control is a mainstay of osteoarthritis treatment. The most commonly used pain control medications for more severe osteoarthritis are Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs can not only reduce pain, but also decrease inflammation in the joints. However, NSAIDs have significant side effects with continued use, particularly in dogs with poor liver or kidney function. Your veterinarian will discuss the risks and benefits of NSAID therapy for your dog, and may recommend regular blood work in order to monitor your dog’s health during NSAID therapy.
Your veterinarian may also recommend other treatment modalities such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, cold laser, and changes in diet. In severe cases, they may recommend surgery to remove damaged tissue from the joint, or even to replace the joint entirely.
If your dog is overweight or obese, your veterinarian is your best resource to help you begin a diet and exercise plan to improve your dog’s health.
The conservative approach can slow down the progression of the disease, and many dogs can live comfortably for years following diagnosis. However, OA is a progressive disease and will continue to worsen with time.
Maintaining your dog at a healthy weight and identifying signs of joint pain early are the first steps to maintaining your dog’s mobility. Joint supplements may also help manage inflammation and pain, as well as slow the progression of the disease.