Osteoarthritis in Dogs

                                                         By: Dr. Lu Teuber

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful disease that affects a dog's joints.  It is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs.

Since dogs tend to want to please their owners, they may try and hide pain.  Here are some common subtle changes that can be seen at varying stages of Osteoarthritis: 

  • Reluctance to climb stairs     
  • Difficulty jumping (on beds, couches, cars, etc.)     
  • Stiffness after normally tolerated exercise     
  • Difficulty rising, sitting, or squatting to eliminate     
  • Changes in behavior

Underlying risk factors that increase risk of Osteoarthritis:     

  • Age (dogs over 5 years of age)     
  • Inactive or overweight dogs     
  • Large or giant breed dogs     
  • Previous joint injury     
  • Developmental orthopedic disorders (hip or elbow dysplasia)

Multi-modal management is most effective for treating and controlling OA.  The goal is to restore, maintain and promote normal function, fitness, wellness and quality of life as these relate to movement disorder and health.  Some or all of the following may be recommended for your pet:     

  • Weight management (body condition score 4-5/9 is ideal)     
  • Exercise/strengthening* (leash walks, sit to stand exercises, steps, inclines, ‘dancing',   wheelbarrow walking
  • Diet (prescription J/D diet)     
  • NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy)     
  • Chondroprotectant combination nutraceuticals (Cosequin, Dasuquin, Adequan)     
  • Physical rehabilitation (massage, stretching, laser, ultrasound, myofascial therapy,range of motion exercises, treadmill exercises.     
  • Adjunct pain relief drug therapies (Tramadol, Gabapentin, Amantadine)     
  • Acupuncture
  • Surgical treatment options

*Reluctance to exercise may be due to unwillingness or inability. Unwillingness is usually secondary to pain.  Inability is often a consequence of decreased muscle and/or joint range of motion.