Dealing With Canine Arthritis

Arthritic dog

If your dog seems lazy or is reluctant to run or play or even get out of bed, especially the day after exercising, he may be suffering from arthritis. Other signs can include stiffness when getting up, limping, obvious pain, reluctance to jump or go up or down stairs, irritability, diminished muscle tone and amount (due to lack of use), loss of appetite (often due to pain or to difficulty reaching down to the bowl to eat), and even fever.

It's easy to dismiss such changes as inevitable signs of aging, but don't assume your dog has arthritis unless your veterinarian has checked him. They could be caused by another problem that needs to be addressed.

What Causes Arthritis?

About 65 percent of dogs between the ages of 7 and 11 years have some degree of arthritis, with a greater proportion occurring in heavier and larger dogs. But while arthritis is more common in older dogs, it can appear in dogs of almost any age. Very commonly, an injury to a joint will lead to early onset of arthritis in that joint. Canine hip dysplasia often leads to arthritis in the rear and can cause so much pain that the dog has difficulty walking. Even some infections and diseases can lead to arthritis. 

In some dogs, there is no obvious cause. In others, abnormal stresses or trauma to the joint can cause degeneration of the joint cartilage and underlying bone. The synovial membrane surrounding the joint becomes inflamed, and the bone develops small bony outgrowths called osteophytes. These and other changes cause the joint to stiffen, become painful, and have decreased range of motion. In cases in which an existing condition is exacerbating the arthritis, surgery to remedy the condition may be warranted. 

When considering surgery for a joint problem, keep in mind that the more the joint is used in its damaged state, the more arthritis will occur. Even though surgery may fix the initial problem, if too much damage has occurred, the dog will still be plagued with incurable arthritic changes. Prevention of arthritis is the key.

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!