Inflammatory Arthritis in Canines

by Valerie A. Modreski
An early diagnosis for canine arthritis can aid in treatment.

An early diagnosis for canine arthritis can aid in treatment.

George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Dog lovers dote on their pets, and when there's a notion of pain or illness, they want immediate answers. Since dogs instinctively mask their pain, by the time pet parents recognize a limp or difficulty in moving, canine inflammatory arthritis -- or simply arthritis -- has probably already taken hold in their joints.

What are the Signs and Symptoms

Most canine arthritis is osteoarthritis and is a common affliction for dogs, especially larger breeds. If your dog has arthritis, the first things you'll notice is a change in mood, activity and mobility. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease characterized by inflammation in your dog’s joints. Early signs also include sleeping more, favoring a limb, obvious joint soreness, less willingness to jump, run or climb stairs, inordinate weight gain, disinterest in play and an attitude or behavior change. Sometimes dog owners interpret these symptoms as signs of old age, but since early detection gives your dog an advantage in treatment, an arthritic evaluation by your dog's veterinarian is essential.

Diagnosis for Canine Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition indicated by erosion of the cartilage that protects bones connected by a joint. Once this bone buffer is compromised, bones are exposed and painful abrasion occurs. Your veterinarian may suspect canine arthritis, at which time she'll perform an arthritic evaluation. Following an physical exam, radiographs and X-rays are taken, along with other diagnostic tests to evaluate the associated pain level and determine the advancement of the arthritis affliction. Your veterinarian should also check your dog's medical history for previous injuries or chronic disorders. If a larger breed dog experiences any injuries, sprains or fractures during his growth period, this can cause him to develop arthritis later in life.

Arthritic Treatment and Lifestyle Changes

The prognosis for canine arthritis is arthritic medication, antibiotics and addressing pain and inflammation. Your dog's veterinarian can decide the most effective method of treating your dog. Treatment is determined by the severity of the arthritis and your dog's size, breed, environmental factors and weight. Treatment for arthritis in dogs is slow and methodical, but changes can be made to your dog's environment to increase his comfort. Arthritic dogs may have difficulty with the slightest jump; assistance ramps will alleviate this issue. Strategically place billowy mats or beds in his favorite places to lie. Give your dog frequent light massages and physical therapy, including hydrotherapy, to strengthen muscles and ease pain. Dogs are meticulous about hygiene, so groom areas hard for him to reach. As an added pain reflection, refrain from physically liberal play, running or excitable situations.

Causes for Canine Arthritis

Certain large breed dogs are more likely to be diagnosed with arthritis, including great Danes, mastiffs, Labradors, Newfoundlands and golden retrievers, but all dogs are susceptible. A natural erosion of joint cartilage develops as your dog ages, setting the stage for arthritis in old age. Predilections for canine arthritis include a bacterial or viral infection, trauma, bone dislocation, obesity, hip or elbow dysplasia, tendon, muscle or ligament damage, or a genetic predisposition. Once your dog has an arthritis evaluation and is diagnosed with osteoarthritis, therapy begins right away.

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