Osteoarthritis in dogs

The word “osteoarthritis” is a combination of Greek word parts: “osteo” for bone, “arthr” for joint, and “itis” for inflammation.

Osteoarthritis results from the progressive loss of joint cartilage, thickening of connective tissue around the joint, and the development of spur-like bony growths that cause pain with movement.

Osteoarthritis - in humans and dogs alike - most commonly affects the hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. 

Dogs can develop osteoarthritis from body conformation, weight, prior injury or surgery, abnormal joint development, repetitive stress activities, or gradual wear and tear. Osteoarthritis signs in dogs can mimic Lyme disease or pain from another body part. 

What are common signs of osteoarthritis in dogs?

Early signs include:

  • Decreased activity
  • Weight gain
  • Stiffness on rising 
  • Occasional lameness

Intermediate to advanced signs include: 

  • Reluctance to use stairs or jump
  • Loss of stamina
  • Progressive lameness
  • Muscle loss or weakness
  • Thickened joints
  • Irritability
  • Urination or defecation in the house

Decreased activity can be a sign of osteoarthritis in dogs.

How is osteoarthritis managed in dogs?  

The goal of osteoarthritis management is to reduce discomfort and minimise further joint damage. Multi-modal treatment options for dogs include weight reduction, omega-3 fatty acid supplements, cartilage protective supplements and injections, anti-inflammatory and pain medications, acupuncture, laser treatment, and physical rehabilitation. 

Dogs with osteoarthritis need regular veterinary visits to monitor their status and prognosis. Discussing a personalised management plan with your vet is important for the best outcome for your dog.

What is the prognosis for dogs with osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis prognosis depends on the disease stage and your dog’s treatment response. Dogs with well-managed osteoarthritis, including at-home adjustments, can live a relatively comfortable and normal life. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that may worsen over time.

Management tips for dogs with osteoarthritis  

At-home needs include:

  • Raised food and water dishes for easy access
  • A supportive, comfortable bed
  • Consistency with prescribed medications and supplements
  • Modified surfaces to increase traction
  • Physical therapy and safe, regular exercise
  • Safety gates, stairs, or ramps
  • Monitoring appetite, drinking, urination, defecation, and activity level

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your dog stops eating, has medication side effects, cannot walk, shows aggression, or vocalises in pain.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your dog‘s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be paid in installments to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website goodbyegoodboy.com.au.

This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.