Canine osteoarthritis is a common, potentially debilitating joint disease in dogs. Approximately 20% of all adult dogs in the United States have some degree of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is characterized by lameness, decreased exercise tolerance and joint pain. The degree of these clinical signs can vary from mild to severe, depending on the stage of the disease process. Unlike humans who can develop osteoarthritis with age, dogs almost always develop osteoarthritis secondary to a physical problem with the affected joints. Joint trauma, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and cruciate ligament ruptures are just a few of the potential causes.
The goals of treating canine osteoarthritis are to decrease pain and improve joint function. Treatment consists of treating the underlying cause as well as, the clinical signs. Treatment of the underlying cause may consist of either surgical therapy, medical therapy or a combination of both. Cruciate ligament rupture (one of the most common causes of canine osteoarthritis) is best treated surgically. Hip dysplasia (also a common cause) can be treated medically or surgically, depending of the severity of the critical signs.
Medical treatment of osteoarthritis includes exercise modification, weight loss if indicated, anti-inflammatory drugs and chondroprotective agents. Moderate levels of low impact exercise (walking, swimming) can decrease pain and disability by increasing muscle strength and improving the dog’s sense of well being. Weight loss will help prevent weight bearing force on the diseased joints. The most valuable treatment for canine osteoarthritis is the use of anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and inflammation. Most of the “over the counter” and prescription human anti-inflammatory drugs are not safe for dogs, as they have a high rate of potentially severe side effects dogs. There are many veterinary anti-inflammatory drugs that are very effective and have a low incidence of side effects and can be prescribed by your veterinarian. Chondroprotective agents, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can slow degeneration of the diseased joints and can also be prescribed by your veterinarian.
Alternative therapies for osteoarthritis are also available, including holistic medicine and acupuncture. Although many claim success with these treatments, the results are still unproven
Canine osteoarthritis can vary from mild to debilitating. But with the proper treatment, many dogs can continue to lead happy, active lives. Working with your veterinarian to develop the best treatment protocol for your pet is essential to achieve the best outcome.
Compliments of: Chesapeake Veterinary Referral Surgery 808 Bestgate Road Annapolis, MD 21401 (410) 224-0121