Arthritis Affecting Dogs

Different Types of Canine Arthritis

Arthritis can prove enervating and challenging in even the heartiest of dogs. In this article, we’ll explore some of the different forms of canine arthritis and some of the therapeutic options available.

Arthritis is defined as a degenerative condition that impacts one or more joints in your dog’s body.

Most cases are inherited orthopedic conditions, including things like hip dysplasia. Some cases come from joint injuries, while others are related to immune joint diseases and joint infections.

FYI – Dogs who eat a raw diet do not develop arthritis. This is a cooked food disease.


Degenerative Arthritis

In the case of osteoarthritis, the degenerative joint condition that affects one-fifth of dogs, the problems aren’t confined to aging dogs. Conditions like hip dysplasia, patella luxation, trauma to joints, and other associated conditions can cause this form of arthritis in young dogs as well as older dogs. Research tells us that larger dogs are impacted more than smaller dogs; this is due to extra strain on joints and ligaments.

One of the complications associated with degenerative arthritis is the progressive nature of the condition. Because things get worse with the passage of time, dogs go through fluctuating degrees of symptoms. These include stiffness, pain and lameness. This leads to other changes in your dog’s behavior, including irritability and abrupt reactions.

Cold exasperates degenerative arthritis, so it’s advantageous to keep dogs with this wretched condition warm and out of dank conditions.

In terms of treatment, it’s important (and disappointing) to note that degenerative joint diseases are incurable at this point and time. Treatment is a matter of enhancing the quality of life for your pooch. This includes a slate of physical therapy and measures to control weight. Some owners will turn to prescription painkillers, like analgesics or corticosteroids, but these should only be administered with the advice of a veterinarian.

Physical therapy in the form of moderate exercise can greatly assist dogs with osteoarthritis. This approach will help maintain muscle mass and preserve flexibility of joints. Be sure to avoid overdoing it and NEVER have a dog with arthritis jump or stand on his or her hind legs.

Another terrific option for physical therapy is swimming, as the water absorbs most of the shock on the joints.

There are other forms of therapy as well, including acupuncture. This practice has produced positive results in many dogs suffering with osteoarthritis. We’ll explore acupuncture for dogs in a future entry, so be sure to stay tuned.

For the most part, surgery is a last resort. Surgery can fuse aching joints to relieve pressure, but this isn’t guaranteed unless your dog is suffering through unbearable pain. The best and safest course of action is a holistic approach that takes your dog’s overall quality of life into account.

Immune Joint Disease Arthritis

While degenerative arthritis is the more common strand of this condition, immune-mediated arthritis actually directs antibodies at the connective tissue. This comes in the form of either erosive or non-erosive arthritis. In the former, joint surfaces and cartilage are destroyed. In the latter, the tissue is intact but painful inflammation results.

Perhaps the most commonly-cited form of erosive arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. This tends to affect toy breeds and smaller dogs the most and has its general onset at about four years of age.

Signs and symptoms include swelling of smaller joints (wrists, hocks and so on) as well as fever and loss of appetite. Dogs with rheumatoid arthritis tend to be stiff in the morning.

Non-erosive arthritis affects mid-sized and larger dogs, but the condition’s cause isn’t exactly known. Dogs tend to be impacted with non-erosive forms of arthritis at later ages than erosive forms, with the typical onset arriving at about five or six years of age. Symptoms include joint swelling, loss of appetite and lameness that can shift from limb to limb.

Joint Infections

Arthritis can also come as the result of infectious diseases. There are some forms of arthritis associated with Rocky Mountain spotted fever, for instance. Canine ehrlichiosis is also associated with arthritis, as is Lyme disease. The latter sometimes draws out a form of spirochetal arthritis. The aforementioned infections are all, coincidentally or not, associated with ticks. Some joint infections are also fungal.

In terms of joint infections from tick diseases, they must be treated as the infections they are. Doxycycline or tetracycline are often used as prescription treatments, but the cold reality is that most dogs with fungal or infectious disease-related arthritis will suffer from permanent joint damage.