Around a fifth of all dogs suffer from osteoarthritis. Older animals are usually affected, but young dogs can also suffer from painful joint wear and tear. Read here how to prevent, recognize and treat arthrosis in dogs.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common diseases in dogs. They are among those diseases that affect the dog’s well-being the most in the long run. The reason for this is the severe pain and restricted mobility that the joint disease can cause. Since the disease is incurable, it is important to prevent it or to do everything therapeutically so that the dog can enjoy life with few symptoms despite arthroses.
Causes and risk factors for osteoarthritis
Despite intensive research, the exact causes of osteoarthritis are still unclear. Risk factors are:
- hereditary predisposition
- Malpositions and deformities of the skeleton
- Overloading and incorrect loading of the joints
- lack of exercise
In addition, the risk of developing osteoarthritis increases significantly with advancing age, height and body weight.
Prevent osteoarthritis in dogs early
Osteoarthritis is a common disease in humans, dogs and even cats that affects almost everyone with age. It is difficult to prevent joint disease completely, but there is a lot that can be done to ensure that it causes symptoms as late as possible and is largely mild:
- In dog breeding, breeders can achieve a lot by carefully selecting healthy breeding animals.
- When raising young large dogs, it is important to ensure that the puppies do not gain weight too quickly, because accelerated growth disrupts the healthy development of bones and joint cartilage.
- As a dog owner, the best way to protect your four-legged friend from osteoarthritis is to keep him slim and give him plenty of movement typical of his species.
On the website of the manufacturer of biological medicines, Heel Veterinär, you will find a free osteoarthritis check that can help you to recognize early on whether your dog is suffering from the first symptoms of osteoarthritis.
This is how osteoarthritis develops in dogs
Osteoarthritis in dogs always begins with damage to the articular cartilage. Articular cartilage, in conjunction with synovial fluid, ensures that bones can move smoothly as the joint flexes or extends. If the articular cartilage is damaged by wear and tear, injury, improper stress or infection, it can only perform its functions in the joint to a limited extent.
In addition, the damage to articular cartilage triggers inflammation. Osteoarthritis has developed. The inflammation is painful and additionally damages the joint. A vicious circle of inflammation and damage develops, which makes the dog’s osteoarthritis worse and worse. In the long run, osteoarthritis changes all structures involved in the joint if it is not slowed down by therapeutic measures.
Treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs
Damage to the articular cartilage, once it has occurred, cannot be reversed. Osteoarthritis therapy therefore aims to prevent further damage or to keep it to a minimum. It is just as important to improve the dog’s quality of life by relieving pain, maintaining mobility and encouraging exercise. For most patients, this is best achieved with multimodal therapy, i.e. treatment based on the modular principle.
Therapy modules for the treatment of arthrosis in dogs:
- adapted diet
- physical therapy
- Use of aids (e.g. orthopedic dog beds or ramps)
Medication for the pain
Painkillers make osteoarthritis bearable for the dogs and enable the animals to move and behave in a manner typical of their species. The anti-inflammatory effect of the painkillers used also prevents further destruction of the joint cartilage and in this way slows down the progression of the joint destruction.
Side effects of long-term painkiller therapy:
- Bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract
- damage to the kidneys
Diet and exercise to prevent osteoarthritis in dogs
The most important thing for the joints is that the dog is and stays lean and lean. Overweight dogs with osteoarthritis need to lose weight! The loss of body fat reduces the pain caused by osteoarthritis. Too much body fat forms inflammatory messengers that fuel the painful flare-ups in the joint again and again.
A diet is ideally supported by sufficient exercise. This ensures that a lot of synovial fluid is formed, which nourishes and protects the articular cartilage.
Joint health can also be promoted by feeding various additives:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Cartilage protective substances (chondroitin sulfate or glycosaminoglycans)
Therapy should always be done in close consultation with the veterinarian. The administration of biological medicines with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, such as “Traumeel ad us. vet.” from HeelVet (100 pieces for 15 euros).
To support joints and cartilage, dietary supplements for dogs with green-lipped mussel extract are also recommended, such as “Green-lipped mussel powder” from AniForte (500g for 29 euros). Many dog owners report positive effects on the dog, but there is still no scientific evidence for the supporting effect of green-lipped mussels.
Targeted muscle building and physiotherapy for arthrosis
Strong muscles stabilize and relieve the joint. With special exercises and training, good animal physiotherapists can specifically strengthen the muscles that are supposed to support the diseased joint. In manual medicine, the animal physiotherapist can relieve painful muscle tension and mobilize the joint through passive movement. Physical applications, such as heat or cold, electrical stimulation, laser or ultrasound, have a targeted effect on local sources of pain and thus help to reduce the amount of painkillers a little.
What to do if osteoarthritis treatment does not help?
Despite all efforts, it can happen that the treatments mentioned no longer help sufficiently. This is relatively common, for example, in the case of osteoarthritis caused by hip dysplasia, in which the diseased joint can now be replaced with an artificial hip joint in a routine operation.
With other joints, however, such a replacement is often not yet possible or is associated with high risks. Other options include anti-inflammatory radiation therapy or stem cell therapy. In some cases, amputation of the affected limb may even be better for the dog than continuing to suffer from the pain. In the worst case, only euthanasia remains to relieve the dog of its suffering.