Like people, dogs can suffer from arthritis. Normally, the bones near their joints are covered with protective cartilage. When they walk, run, or move in any way, the cartilage on the ends of the bones rub against each other. There is no discomfort because there are no nerves present in the material. However, over time, that protective covering slowly deteriorates. When that happens, the underlying bones are exposed to one another; when your pooch moves, they rub together and cause pain.
Often referred to as degenerative joint disease (DJD), arthritis is a debilitating condition in canines. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the factors that contribute to – or exacerbate – the problem. We’ll also explain how owners can manage the issue.
Contributing Factors And Symptoms
As canines age, the cartilage that prevents their bones from rubbing against each other naturally wears away. This is known as primary DJD and affects nearly all breeds. Many breeds are also susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia, genetic disorders that impact ball and socket joints. Both disorders can lead to osteoarthritis, which is commonly called secondary DJD. Other factors that can lead to canine arthritis include obesity, problems related to the metabolism, and inflammation caused by fractures.
The first sign of DJD is usually an uneven gait; dogs will shift the majority of their weight onto whichever legs are not arthritic. They will also have difficulty getting up if they have been lying down for a prolonged period. If the problem has progressed to an advanced stage, a canine might lose his appetite and become reclusive.
How To Manage The Problem
Degenerative joint disease is progressive, so discomfort tends to increase over time. That said, owners can help their dogs cope with the pain through a number of treatment strategies. Dysplasia of the hips can often be treated with a hip replacement, though a veterinarian may avoid recommending it depending on the health of your dog. Vitamins, supplements, and medications that help reduce the inflammation may also be prescribed.
Owners can also pursue a more holistic form of treatment. For example, weight management is critical for canines suffering from DJD since extra weight can place undue stress on their joints. In fact, veterinarians will often recommend waiting to perform surgery or prescribe medications if a dog is severely overweight.
Daily low-impact exercise will help control weight gain. Activities such as swimming or walking will give your pooch the opportunity to use his limbs and maintain his muscles without exacerbating his arthritis. Also, climbing and descending stairs, and jumping into and out of vehicles can worsen his DJD; a ramp can significantly reduce the impact on his joints.
If your dog develops arthritis, ask your veterinarian to recommend a treatment path. Whether through surgery, medications, exercise, or a combination of all three, you can help improve your canine’s quality of life.
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