The word osteoarthritis is derived from three terms: 'osteo' meaning bone, 'artho' meaning joint and 'itis' meaning inflammation and so osteoarthritis essentially means inflammation of the joint, which has been caused by an underlying issue with the bone.
There are other forms of arthritis that should not be confused with osteoarthritis, including immune mediated arthritis and infectious arthritis.
Structure Of The Dog Joint
To best understand canine ostoarthritis, also known as canine OA, you should understand the structure of the dog joint.
Whenever a joint bends or straightens, the bones within the joint rub against each other. To protect these bones from this constant rubbing, their ends are covered with a very tough cartilage called articular, or joint, cartilage.
Joint cartilage does not have a blood supply or nerves but it does have living cells. These cells are fed by nutrients from joint fluid. Healthy joint cartilage gets replaced over time, but this occurs slowly.
How Canine Osteoarthritis Develops
More often than not, it is the deterioration of joint cartilage that is the starting point of osteoarthritis. Gradually, the joint cartilage is worn away to expose the underlying bone. Since bones have a healthy supply of nerves, this exposure causes pain and inflammation.
The increased blood flow associated with inflammation raises pressure in the joint and over time, the body reacts by increasing bone formation around the joint. Tiny pieces of bone may break off into the joint, and float freely in the fluid. The result is reduced mobility and pain.
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Why Does Canine Joint Cartilage Deteriorate?
There are many causes of joint cartilage deterioration, some relatively obvious, others less so.
For example, lifestyle factors. Overweight individuals are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. In other words, excessive pressure on the joint appears to be a triggering factor.
Inappropriate exercise at a young age. Too much of the wrong type of exercise may also cause the initial damage to the joint that can start the downwards spiral into osteoarthritis. One example is dogs jumping agility obstacles before they are physically mature.
Injury. Any injury to the joint will dramatically increase the possibility of osteoarthritis to that joint. Examples of such injuries include ligament tears and trauma. The probability sky rockets if the injury is not treated properly and promptly.
Developmental abnormalities. There are some unfortunate developmental issues that can predispose an individual dog to osteoarthritis. One well known example is badly formed hip joints in German Shepherds.
Canine osteoarthritis is not life-threatening, but it is progressive. There is no known cure for it as yet, but there are treatments available. There is a growing interest in stem cell therapy and how this could change the future treatment landscape.
What is known is that you can help your dog by ensuring they are active, fit and a healthy weight. Activities such as hydrotherapy which not only help to keep dogs active and work muscles perhaps not often used, but it can also be a great way to maintain a healthy weight and put less stress and strain on joints.
Treating with Supplements
Treating naturally with supplements can be a great way to support your other efforts to help your dog live a happy and healthy life if they are suffering from joint and mobility issues and so joint supplements are commonly used to support joint and cartilage health and can be a great way to add to your dog's diet. When used alongside appropriate nutrition and exercise, these supplements can help your dog to stay fit and active.
Ingredients, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, are key nutrients that make up cartilage and can be found in many supplements used to treat osteoarthritis because they help to repair and regenerate cartilage.
Many supplements also contain other natural ingredients, such as methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a sulfur compound found in the body that supports numerous bodily functions, which can also benefit to support joint and connective tissue function for dogs, and fish oils.
According to the experts at VetSpec, dogs who suffer from conditions such as arthritis, can benefit from supplementation of these omega-3s which reduce the production of inflammatory substances. Research has demonstrated an improvement of clinical signs in dogs with arthritis when supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids.
We all want the best for our dog and so sometimes it can be a case of treating using multiple methods to find what combination works best for them keeping them as happy and healthy as possible.
If your dog has suffered from arthritis, let us know what worked for them - we'd love to hear from you!