Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What You Need To Know About Canine Arthritis

Canine arthritis involves the inflammation in a joint or joints. This can result in changes to the joint cartilage, the joint fluid, the bones involved in the joint and the actual capsule of the joint depending on the cause of the inflammation.

There are many causes that create arthritis. Listed below are the main types:

Osteoarthritis - trauma, wear and tear

Immune-mediated - Rheumatiod

Genetic - malformed hips, elbows or knees

Infective - Lyme or Anaplasma

Idiopathic (where the cause is unknown)

Arthritis Symptoms

Osteoarthritis or degenrative joint disease is a painful condition and can make your dog's life miserable, therefore the sooner you detect the signs of dog arthritis, the faster you can adopt measures to slow its progression and help save your dog from further pain. Here is a rundown on some of the symptoms that your dog may have athritis:

  • Stiffness, lameness, or limping after rest
  • Loss of appetite or unusual weight gain
  • Inactivity and sleeping a lot more
  • Relutance to walk, run or climb stairs
  • Unusual urinating in the house
  • Irritability and behavioural changes
  • Depressed or withdrawn
If your dog has any of these symptoms, take it to a veterinarian for a full diagnosis. Typical dog arthritis evaluation will involve some physical examinations, blood tests and X-rays. In some cases, a synovial (joint) fluid analysis may be performed if joint swelling is noticed.

Treatment of Canine Arthritis

Once you confirm that your dog has joint pain due to arthritis, you will need to know what you can do to help relieve the pain and minimize your pet's arthritic discomfort.

There are many ways to keep your dog's arthritis condition under control and to substantially improve the quality of your dog's life. Some treatment options available for canine arthritis include:

Physical Therapy

Light to moderate exercise is encouraged because it helps maintain your dog's muscle mass and perserves joint flexibilty. Swimming is an exccellent exercise that improves muscle mass without overstressing the joints. Overweight dogs should be encouraged to lose weight to delay the onset degenerative arthritis.


There are always conventional medications to treat arthritis and help relieve dog joint pain. The use of Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and their anti-inflammatory properties can help provide rapid relief for your dog's arthritis pain, but they do not repair or heal cartilage.

Caution: Never give your dog any human form of medication such as common household aspirin. If you are going to give your dog aspirin or steriods for arthritis pain, make sure you understand the possible side effects that may affect your dog.


Surgery is usually recommended as a last resort treatment for dogs with canine arthritis because the treatment is expensive and it may also cause even further pro-longed pain for your dog. Your veterinarian will only suggest surgery when all other possible non-surgical treatments are exhausted to relieve your dog’s pain. The types of surgery available include joint repair, fusion, hip replacement and arthroscopic surgery.

Alternative Supplements for Arthritis Pain Relief and Joint Health

Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin can be very helpful for dogs primarily where the joints are involved. Glucosamine is naturally present in animal bones and as a dietary supplement, it can help to promote new cartilage growth, relieve joints and muscle pain and improve joint mobility.

Acupuncture can give excellent results in pain management and may eliminate the requirement for medications.

Herbal medicine can give great benefits also as they are designed to treat the animal in a holistic manner. Be confident in your choice of herbal practitioner and ask your veterinarian for guidance if unsure.

Future Prevention

If your dog is diagnosed with canine arthritis, work with your vet to establish a holistic treatment plan to help your dog live each day as pain free as possible.

Good healthy diets and proper exercise help your dog either avoid canine arthritis or reduce its affects.

A good healthy diet that prevents your dog from gaining too much weight is ideal. Diet is even more important when your dog is a puppy. Puppies need well-balanced, wholesome diets, with added calcium, to help minimize the likelihood of joint displacement. Adding omega 3 oil to the diet will also help to balance out its diet and add valuable vitamins and minerals it needs every day.

Contrary to what many people think, exercise is vital for dogs with arthritis. It should start out as gentle exercise to get your dog’s joints moving and progressively increase it as your dog’s fitness levels rise. Try gently massaging your dog’s painful joints to help restore the blood flow.
A dog with arthritic conditions can live normal, healthy lives and are better off out playing with a ball to keep their joints and muscles moving. A dog that gets little exercise puts on weight, and its joints and muscles seize up.

Buy a good orthopedic bed made for dogs with arthritis. Just like us, a dog’s painful joints may become inflame in cold weather so a good bed will keep your dog warm, support its weary bones and help your furry friend get a good night’s sleep.

Remember as a dog owner, there is much you can do to make a huge difference in the quality of your dog’s life to help your dog lead a pain free life especially if he/or she is suffering from joint problems like dog arthritis.

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at