Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints. About 20% of dogs will suffer from it during their lifetime. The most commonly affected joints are the hip, knee and elbow joints. There are a number of myths surrounding canine osteoarthritis and what it means for your dog if they are diagnosed with it.
What is canine osteoarthritis? A brief primer
Canine osteoarthritis is a disease that affects the joints of dogs.
The early symptoms of canine osteoarthritis include the signs of limping or favouring one leg after exercise, struggling more than normal to stand up after a long sleep and occasional bouts of lameness. As the disease progresses, the dog will most likely suffer from stiffness, as well as pain in and around the joint.
It is important to remember that dogs age much quicker than humans and large breeds age more quickly as well as carrying more weight on their joints.
Some owners will often mistake canine osteoarthritis for a sprain or joint injury.
The myths about canine arthritis
Myth 1. My pet’s days are numbered
Being diagnosed with canine osteoarthritis does not mean that your dog’s “life is over”. It does mean that your responsibilities increase, but it is well within your hands to provide him with a good excellent quality of life for years to come.
Myth 2. Exercise is a complete “no-no”
Far from it. Regular but moderate exercise is a crucial part of your dog’s therapy. First, exercise helps keep your pet’s weight within the target range (the target is usually set a trifle below average for his breed and age). Equally or possibly, more importantly, exercise helps his affected joints stay mobile.
Take care; you must tailor your dog’s exercise regimen to his needs — discuss this with your veterinarian.
The image above shows the most commonly affected joints
Myth 3. Dogs hardly feel pain
This myth needs to be crumpled and scrunched, dumped into the garbage, finally incinerated! It simply isn’t true. Dogs are physiologically and anatomically very much like us. Conditions that hurt us, such as osteoarthritis, will definitely hurt your dog.
There is no need for him to feel miserable and uncomfortable. Many safe and effective pain relief medications are available to get him up and on the go again. Your veterinarian can help with this, but do follow their instructions regarding pain medication for your arthritic dog.
Myth 4. Arthritis only affects older dogs
There is no doubt that age is a big factor in the development of osteoarthritis. However, young dogs are also susceptible because triggers to the onset of osteoarthritis include injury and developmental defects.
If you own working or show dog or if your dog is one of the breeds in the high-risk category, you need to maintain a heightened awareness of the initial symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Myth 5. Canine osteoarthritis can be cured
Unfortunately, this is simply not true. Yet. There is no proven cure for osteoarthritis. However, advances in science are ongoing and, because osteoarthritis is a huge problem in humans as well, it is very possible there will be a cure in the future. In the meantime, your dog’s arthritis can be well managed by keeping his joints as healthy as possible and easing his pain and discomfort. He’ll still be able to enjoy his daily walk and will go through life with a spring in his step.
Myth 6. Osteoarthritis can be treated with just medications and supplements
The key components of osteoarthritis treatment are medications, weight control and exercise. One without the others will just not cut it. There is enormous synergy when all three components are addressed appropriately.
Myth 7. Osteoarthritis is inevitable with age
While the likelihood of arthritis does go up with age, many dogs will not develop it at all. They will still slow down with age, but they will not suffer the debilitating pain of osteoarthritis. If you do notice changes in your dog’s activity level, don’t just assume he is getting a bit old and stiff. He may have another medical condition that is affecting his behaviour and it would be worth having him examined by your vet, just to be safe.
Myth 8. Osteoarthritis does not need to be treated
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, and it is progressive, it is a myth to assume that it doesn’t need to be treated. Appropriate treatment can and will make a huge difference to your dog’s well-being.
Osteoarthritis can be managed effectively using treatments that focus on reducing pain and inflammation, slowing the progression of the disease, facilitating the repair of damaged tissues and maintaining or improving joint function. Vets may recommend a combination of the following: