It’s true that like human beings, dogs too, can suffer from arthritis as they age. It’s a common ailment in canines and a somewhat difficult condition to manage. The basic definition of Arthritis is that it is an abnormal change in a bone joint.
It may arise from destruction of joint tissue following an infection, congenital defects that affect structural architecture and from trauma and stress to supporting structures and joint surfaces. Occasionally, auto immune disorders are also responsible for inflammation of joint tissue and their subsequent degeneration.
It’s usually seen that from the age of five or six onwards, a dog affected by arthritis tends to be moving slowly and finds it difficult to sit down or get up.
There may also be slight limping and pain as it changes positions. Even though the symptoms may be insignificant, so x-rays are taken, it is seen that most aging dogs suffer from advanced degeneration of both hip joints. This condition is known as coxofemoral osteoarthritis and is usually accompanied by bony changes in the lumbar or lower spine.
In common cases of hip dysplasia, the arthritis is partly due to misaligned stress points and abnormal conformation of the coxofemoral joint. The cartilage gets adversely impacted, wearing away faster than it can regenerate. The bony layer beneath the cushioning cartilage gets exposed and inflammation happens.
There is also a thickening of the joint capsule that surrounds the joint members while blood vessels to and from the joint area dilate, leading to swelling and inflammation. The joint’s elastic tissues stiffen as calcium deposits build up over the years and the nerves in the area send pain signals to the brain. The dog’s mobility becomes greatly restricted due to degeneration of the joint.
The symptoms first begin showing with subtle changes in the dog’s behavior. The typical signs are an increase in weight, a tendency to sleep more, an aversion to physical activities, particularly playing and reduced alertness. When you see a less excited dog who hesitates to jump on you as you return home or thinks twice about jumping on to the couch or while becomes climbing stairs, chances are that arthritis is beginning to set in.
The degree of osteo-arthritic changes varies from dog to dog depending on age, size, and weight. That’s why it becomes imperative to treat arthritis, degeneration, and joint inflammation after evaluating each case individually because every canine responds to pain and discomfort uniquely.
The standard treatment protocol is non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medication that relieves pain and improves joint mobility. However, the vet’s recommendation is necessary as your dog may have side effects from these. Carprofen is most commonly recommended but the dog’s blood bio-chemistry needs to be periodically checked when consumed long-term. Deramaxx is yet another commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory medication as is aspirin for the condition’s milder versions.
Meloxicam in liquid form also works well in canine arthritis management. However, drugs like Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are best avoided as they are known to cause liver damage and gastro-intestinal bleeding, respectively, in dogs.
Drugs apart, the dog’s body weight has to be kept in check through exercise to maintain joint flexibility and movement. Moreover, soft sleeping surfaces aid in reducing arthritic discomfort. Alternately, gentle massage therapy also helps alleviate the pain and discomfort.