What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (O.A.), otherwise known as degenerative joint disease, is a complex disease affecting the joint as a whole. O.A. involves deterioration of joint cartilage, bone remodeling and proliferation, and inflammation of the joint capsule and ligaments and tendons. The most common affected joints being the elbows, wrists, hips, knees and back.
Although we often think of arthritis as an age related disease, and it is more prevalent in older dogs, the destructive characteristics of O.A. can begin at any age with either joint trauma, joint instability, or genetic and developmental conditions as seen with hip dysplasia.
O.A. affects approximately one in five adult dogs. The main symptom of O.A. is pain. Owners often report that their dog isn't as active as it once was, has trouble getting up or going up and down stairs, is stiff in the mornings or evenings and their appetite may be off. Gait abnormalities are also often seen due to the dog trying to compensate for this pain.
Unfortunately O.A. is not curable, however it can be managed with early diagnostics and detection. Proper nutrition, supplements, pain medications, exercise and weight management as well as adjunct therapies such as massage, laser therapy and physiotherapy, can lessen the pain of O.A and decrease the rate of joint destruction. With proper management, the mobility, range of motion and and quality of life for the pet can be increased.
In some cases, surgery can be an effective way to reduce pain and increase mobility for severely affected dogs.