Osteoarthritis In Dogs is a degenerative disease of the moveable joints that progresses steadily, causing pain and restricting movement. The typical characteristics are gradual deterioration of the cartilage and accumulation of fluid in the joints. Some bony structures develop in the joint too. Osteoarthritis may result from autoimmune diseases, infections or abnormalities in bone development. Severe or constant trauma can also lead to osteoarthritis. This causes the joint membranes to become inflamed and damages the cartilage. Chronic inflammation and continued destruction of the cartilage leads to pain, swelling and abnormal functioning of the joints.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs may vary according to the degree of damage, but joint swelling and pain are common. As the joint membranes become thickened and scarred, joint movements become difficult, and often a grating sound is heard. Reduction in the range of motion and wasting away of the muscles occur, leading to lameness.
On conducting a physical examination, the veterinarian detects the grating sound and signs of structural damage in the joints. X-ray may reveal thickened bone as well as bony outgrowths under the damaged cartilage. Excessive fluid collection in the joint and narrowing of the joint space may be apparent.
Treatment of osteoarthritis with drugs involves analgesics for pain and anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling and relieve joint stiffness. But on long-term use they may inflame the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to vomiting and loss of appetite. Another option is the administration of corticosteroids, but they are usually prescribed for short-term use and in acute cases only, in view of their serious side effects. Joint fluid modifiers may improve joint health, but they may have to be used for extended periods for a positive outcome. The veterinarian assesses the overall health of the dog and determines the extent of the disease before prescribing the drug therapy suitable for it.
Osteoarthritis can be treated surgically, but the location of the affected joint and the extent of the damage suffered by it determine the type of surgery that is feasible, as well as its success. Joint replacement and joint fusion are the usual options, but in extreme cases amputation of the limb may be necessary.
Non-surgical and non-medical management of osteoarthritis involves reducing the dog’s weight, and massage therapy. Warm compresses on the swollen joints may provide relief. Physiotherapy is helpful but the exercises have to be conducted on soft surfaces and under professional supervision.