Managing osteoarthritis in dogs

vets feature

It’s a serious problem, but careful management of osteoarthritis should ensure your dog lives a full and happy life, as Frithjof Praetsch of Severn Edge Veterinary Group explains.

Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of lameness in dogs, affecting an estimated 1.6 million dogs in the UK. It’s a degenerative joint disease which leads to the destruction of cartilage, chronic pain and bone changes and it can severely compromise an animal’s quality of life. Larger, older and overweight dogs are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.

The first symptoms can be misinterpreted, as the affected dog may appear just as willing to exercise as it usually does, but instead may withdraw from its owner, or even become aggressive. But as the disease increases in severity, dogs will start to show a reluctance to move, particularly in cold weather. In order to minimise pain and preserve normal joint function, it’s important to get the condition diagnosed and start treatment as early as possible.

Even though osteoarthritis can’t be cured, in the vast majority of affected dogs, the associated pain can be controlled and quality of life improved significantly. Most important to the management of the disease are medication to protect joint cartilage and relieve pain, weight management, controlled exercise on soft ground, or hydrotherapy to strengthen joints and muscles, backed up by supplements. Many dogs also benefit from acupuncture.

Most dogs respond to some form of long-term medical management and we’ve been using the new generation of anti–inflamatories and joint supplements, which are administered in a course of injections, to great effect in the surgery recently. This, coupled with keeping the pet as trim as possible, has been successful in managing this condition in our canine patients.

So osteoarthritis is common and can be debilitating, but with careful management, modern drugs and lifestyle changes, dogs can enjoy many more years of toy chasing and mischief.

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