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With the onset of colder weather, certain health conditions, such as osteoarthritis, can worsen. Below, we take a closer look at what causes osteoarthritis and how you can help your dog to enjoy a full, pain-free life.

What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis develops over time and is when wear and tear of tissue (cartilage and bone) within your pet's joints causes inflammation and pain. Most commonly affected are the ‘high-motion’ joints such as knees, elbows, shoulders, and hips.

How many dogs have osteoarthritis?
It is estimated that there are over six million dogs in the UK and 80% of those aged 8 years and older have osteoarthritis. That said, it can also affect young animals less than a year of age.

What should I be looking out for?
Most of the signs are typical of what you might expect from a joint disorder; restricted range of joint movement, atrophy (reduced size) of nearby muscles, and swollen or misshapen joints.

Questions to ask yourself can include:

  • Does your dog lag behind on walks?
  • Do they hesitate before jumping into the car or onto the sofa?
  • Do they struggle to get up the stairs?
  • Do they limp after exercise?
  • Are they restless at night?

You may also find that your dog’s behaviour changes, their general level of activity reduces and they are stiff after rest.

What treatment is available?
There are various treatments available to help dogs with osteoarthritis. We will advise you on the most suitable, safe combination for your pet.

Ways to help your dog include:

  • Control of body weight

A good place to start is by keeping your dog at a healthy body weight so their joints are under less strain. If your pet is overweight, we can help you devise a healthy eating and exercise plan that fits with your current lifestyle.

  • Exercise

As well as helping your dog lose weight, exercise maintains muscle strength and improves overall fitness. The amount of exercise your dog is comfortable doing depends on how severely their joints are affected. Most dogs with osteoarthritis benefit from shorter, more frequent walks with exercise consistent across the week (longer weekend walks can take days to recover from).

  • Pain Control

Several options are available for helping to control your dog’s discomfort, including:

  1. Nutritional Supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids
  2. Anti-inflammatory medication (as prescribed by a vet)
  3. Warm/Cold compresses to warm up stiff joints or reduce inflammation
  4. Physiotherapy- improves joint movement
  5. Hydrotherapy – increases muscle strength
  6. Acupuncture- helps control your dog’s pain
  • Surgery

If your dog has severe osteoarthritis, surgery might help them. Procedures such as joint replacements and joint-fusion are available at referral centres. Surgery is only suitable for a small number of dogs; your vet will explain if and how surgery could help your dog.

Will any treatment cure my pet’s osteoarthritis?

Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is progressive but the treatments available can help your dog to enjoy an excellent quality of life.

If you feel that your dog has symptoms of osteoarthritis, or have any concerns, please contact us for advice.

More information, as well as useful resources for tracking the signs of osteoarthritis, can be found on the Canine Arthritis Management (CAM) website.



Source: Davies Veterinary Specialists

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