What are Degenerative Arthritis?
Arthritis, or the inflammation of joints, mainly affects dogs that are of age or that are born with a condition that can quickly lead to arthritis. Degenerative arthritis in dogs is a disease of the joints which is non-inflammatory and chronic. The term arthritis is often used simultaneously with degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis.
This painful condition is progressive, and although permanent, can be treated to reduce some of the discomfort. Since it is chronic, degenerative arthritis in dogs can eventually lead to lameness, loss of joint function, and deformed joints.
Degenerative arthritis in dogs is a very common form of joint condition which causes the cartilage of the joint to deteriorate over time. Degenerative arthritis occurs when chemical substances are released, namely inflammatory mediators, within the cartilage of the joints. These chemical substances progressively deteriorate the cartilage and, in severe cases, can cause intense pain.
Degenerative arthritis in dogs negatively affects a casnine’s joints and causes pain and stiffness throughout his days. There is no cure for this condition; however it can be successfully managed so dogs can have a fulfilled life.
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Symptoms of Degenerative Arthritis in Dogs
Typically the symptoms of degenerative arthritis in dogs are quite specific. This degenerative condition is not a sudden condition, but does noticeably become more significant over time. Symptoms may include:
- Pain and stiffness
- Difficulty walking for long periods of time
- Difficulty standing from a resting position
- Licking of a painful joint
If your dog has degenerative arthritis, your doctor will discuss with you the possible causes and the type of degenerative arthritis your dog has. Types include:
Primary degenerative arthritis occurs when a specific dog breed is predisposed to joint inflammation. This type of degenerative arthritis may be present even at birth, although this is uncommon.
Secondary degenerative arthritis occurs when the joint cartilage is permanently damaged from traumatic injury, too much stress on the joint, overexertion, or aging.
Causes of Degenerative Arthritis in Dogs
There are several different causes of degenerative arthritis in dogs. The main cause of this condition is the aging bone structure of dogs, especially larger dogs. Specific causes include:
- Traumatic injuries
- Infections of the joints
- Immune system conditions
- Physical deformities from birth or from accidents
Diagnosis of Degenerative Arthritis in Dogs
If you notice that your dog is having difficulty standing up from a resting position, not able to move his body like he once could when he was younger, has difficulty going up and down stairs, or other symptoms, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Once you take your dog to the doctor, he will do a thorough assessment of his joints, ligaments, and bones and discuss with you all of the symptoms he may be having.
He will do a complete physical examination, including blood work, urinalysis, and possible radiograph or imaging to take a closer look at any specific painful areas on the dog’s body. These tests will help the veterinarian rule out any underlying conditions. The imaging may not be performed at the first visit with the doctor, as many arthritis patients have very similar symptoms and he may be able to make a diagnosis after interviewing you, learning more about the dog’s history, and if you have been to the veterinarian for regular veterinary visits. However, many veterinarians perform imaging as baseline data to watch for any changes over time, especially if your dog is young.
The veterinarian will be able to tell specifically the joints that are causing pain once he examines your dog. He may perform specific movements with your dog, such as flexing the joints and extending the joints.
Treatment of Degenerative Arthritis in Dogs
Treatment depends on your dog’s symptoms and the amount of pain. In some cases of degenerative arthritis in dogs, your veterinarian will give you suggestions on things you can do at home with him rather than perform long-range treatment. Treatments often include:
Physical therapy may be recommended, especially if your dog is overweight. Your veterinarian will arrange a physical therapist that will target the joints involved and have a specific plan of action on a regular basis. With physical therapy, you will need to take your dog to each session so he can receive the full benefits of this therapy.
Medications may be used in addition to therapy, or line. Your veterinarian may prescribe a long-term medication of inflammatory nature for you to give your dog each day. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are the medications of choice for dogs with degenerative arthritis. Other medications are on the market of the prescription kind, and research is currently being conducted on various drug options. Your veterinarian is very knowledgeable and will prescribe the medication he believes will help your dog have a reduced amount of pain.
Recovery of Degenerative Arthritis in Dogs
There is no real recovery for degenerative arthritis in dogs; however this condition can be managed. It will continue to get worse over time, as this condition cannot be reversed, but with proper therapy and medications, it can be slowed down and pain can be minimized.
Your veterinarian will give you suggestions on things you can do at home to help your dog. If your home has multi—levels, you may need to make arrangements to have your companion only live on one floor with you. You may need to block off any stairs with a baby gate to prevent him from attempting to go up the steps and come down, as his joints could give out and he could fall. If you have steps that go outside, your veterinarian may suggest purchasing a ramp so your dog can go outside with ease and safety. Car ramps are also very useful if you enjoy taking your dog on trips and car rides.
Supplements may be given to your dog as well, and your veterinarian may suggest supplements you can add to his food to help lubricate the joints. It is important to still encourage a little exercise, such as walks, so he can keep moving, but not to encourage activities such as climbing and other activities that can be unsafe for him.