Arthritis is a complex condition involving inflammation of joints. It is very common, especially in older dogs.
There are many causes but, in general, the degree of arthritis is directly related to the age of the animal. Just as with us, the older a dog is, the stiffer the joints tend to be.
By far the most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA) which is perhaps better described as degenerative joint disease (DJD) since it is a progressive breaking down of the joint surfaces most commonly as a result of excessive wear and tear secondary to conditions involving joint mobility such as hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament rupture.
Although DJD is a progressive disease, early recognition, diagnosis and treatment of is very important in slowing the progress of the disease to ensure that dogs continue to live long and pain-free lives as far as possible.
At first, the signs are often subtle and many people think their dog is just getting old but, in fact, their dog can be in significant pain. Rarely will dogs cry out in pain with DJD. They have no idea that there are treatments available that can make them feel lots better and they don't have to suffer in silence. Ask yourself this; how would you know if someone (a person) close to you was suffering from arthritic pain? As a human, theu could tell you verbally, but unless they were lame or behaving oddly, it might not be obvious.
As responsible dog owners, we need to be looking out for the subtle developing signs of OA and so we have developed the questionnaire below as an aid to recognising if your dog is showing signs of arthritis.
Treatments for arthritis are varied, depending on the presenting signs and the individual dog. Sometimes, simple lifestyle changes (such as changes to exercise regimes and not having to go up and down stairs) can make huge differences. Ensuring your dog is not overweight is critical. Certain nutraceuticals can be helpful but beyond these, modern veterinary medicine has a large range of anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-killing) drugs available which can transform the quality of life for some dogs with arthritis.