Canine Arthritis

Posted: September 05 2011


Arthritis literally means joint inflammation. In dogs, arthritis can cause limping and can severely limit a dog’s mobility. The changes caused by arthritis are painful and irreversible.  You might be surprised to learn that arthritis can affect dogs as young as four.

Arthritis occur in two forms: osteoarthritis or joint damage.  Larger and heavier dog breeds like Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Rottweilers are prone to osteoarthritis, while working dog breeds like Greyhounds, Kelpies and Border Collies are prone to suffer from joint damage.

Osteoarthritis is usually a genetic problem more common in older dogs that were very active in their youth. Joint damage by either wear and tear or a trauma such as being hit by a car or falling down stairs is another form of arthritis.   Reduced mobility and pain on the joints is because inflammatory mediators are released, which cause a loss of synovial fluid.  This means there is a lack of lubricating fluid in the joints.  Over time the joints’ blood supply and bone formation changes.

At the end of each bone is a layer of protecting tissue called cartilage.  Cartilage allows bones to move smoothly against each other, but over time it may be worn away and the synovial fluid lubricating the dog’s joints becomes thinner.

All of this causes friction on your dog’s joints, and as the joints become inflamed they are painful and stiff, and swollen.

Common symptoms of arthritis in dogs are:

- Reluctance to exercise

- Lost enthusiasm for jumping, for example in and out of the car

- Quieter disposition

- Stiffness

- Avoiding stairs and walking

- Slowness to get up and lie down.

Treatment to make your dog’s arthritis symptoms more comfortable include:

- Cold weather makes arthritis worse.  Where possible, keep your dog warm in winter.

- Change exercise to swimming rather than running;

- Use ramps where possible, and avoid stairs and jumping;

- Ensure your dog is not overweight.  Over-feeding your dog will worsen her symptoms by placing more stress on her joints;

- Add fatty acids and glucosamine to your dog’s diet.  These are known to lessen arthritic symptoms;

- Keep your puppy’s bed in a warm place away from any draughts; and

- Talk to your vet about anti-inflammatory medication to relieve your dog’s pain. 

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