Osteoarthritis in dogs: causes, symptoms, treatment

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Osteoarthritis in dogs: causes, symptoms, treatment

Osteoarthritis is one of the eight most common diseases in dogs. According to a recent study, they are among the diseases that have the greatest negative impact on dog welfare in the long term. The reasons for this are severe pain and restricted mobility that the joint disease can cause. Since the disease is incurable, it is important – as far as possible – to prevent it or to do everything therapeutically so that the dog can enjoy life with little symptoms despite osteoarthritis.

Causes and Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis

The exact causes of osteoarthritis are still unexplained despite intensive research.

Risk factors are:

  • hereditary predisposition
  • Malpositions and deformities of the skeleton
  • Injuries
  • Overloading and improper loading of the joints
  • Sedentary lifestyle

In addition, the risk of developing osteoarthritis increases significantly with age, height and weight.

Prevent osteoarthritis at an early stage

Osteoarthritis is a widespread disease in humans, dogs and even cats that affects almost everyone with age. Joint disease can hardly be completely prevented, but you can do a lot to ensure that it causes symptoms late in life and is largely mild:

  • In dog breeding, breeders can achieve a lot by carefully selecting healthy breeding animals.
  • When raising young, large dogs, one must above all ensure that the puppies do not gain weight too quickly, because accelerated growth disrupts the healthy development of bones and articular cartilage.
  • As a dog owner, the best way to protect your four-legged friend from osteoarthritis is to keep him slim and offer him a lot of typical movement.

You can find a free osteoarthritis check on the website of the manufacturer of biological medicines Heel Veterinär, which can help you to recognize at an early stage whether your dog is suffering from the first symptoms of osteoarthritis: https://www.vetepedia.de/gesundheitsthemen/hund / musculoskeletal system / osteoarthritis check /

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This is how osteoarthritis develops in dogs

Osteoarthritis in dogs always begins with damage to the joint cartilage. The joint cartilage, in conjunction with the synovial fluid, ensures that the bones can move smoothly when the joint is flexed or extended. If the joint cartilage is damaged by wear and tear, injuries, incorrect stress or infections, it can only fulfill its functions in the joint to a limited extent.

In addition, the damage to the articular cartilage triggers inflammation. Osteoarthritis has developed. The inflammation is painful and also damages the joint. A vicious circle of inflammation and damage develops, which makes osteoarthritis in dogs even worse. In the long term, osteoarthritis changes all structures involved in the joint if it is not slowed down by therapeutic measures.

Osteoarthritis robs the dog of a lot of quality of life. © stock.adobe.com/Alexandr

Treatment of osteoarthritis

Damage to the articular cartilage that has occurred once cannot be reversed. The aim of osteoarthritis therapy is therefore to prevent further damage or to keep it as low as possible. It is just as important to improve the dog’s quality of life by relieving pain, maintaining mobility and encouraging movement. For most patients, this works best with multimodal therapy, i.e. treatment based on the modular principle.

Therapy modules for the treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs:

  • Medication
  • adapted diet
  • Move
  • physiotherapy
  • physical therapy
  • Use of aids (e.g. orthopedic dog beds or ramps)

1. Medicines for pain

Painkillers make osteoarthritis bearable for the dogs and enable the animals to move and behave in a way that is typical of their species again. The anti-inflammatory effect of the painkillers used also prevents further destruction of the joint cartilage and in this way slows down the progression of joint destruction.

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Side effects of long-term pain reliever therapy:

  • Bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Damage to the kidneys

2. Diet and exercise against osteoarthritis in dogs

The most important thing for the joints is that the dog is slim and slim and that it stays that way.Overweight dogs with osteoarthritis have to lose weight! The loss of body fat relieves the pain caused by the arthritis. Too much body fat forms inflammatory messengers that repeatedly fuel the painful flare-ups in the joint.

A diet is ideally supported by adequate exercise. This ensures that a lot of synovial fluid is formed, which nourishes and protects the joint cartilage.

Joint health can also be promoted by feeding various additives:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Cartilage protection substances (chondroitin sulfate or glycosaminoglycans)

Therapy should always be carried out in close consultation with the veterinarian. As a preventive measure – but also in acute attacks – the administration of biological drugs with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties supports the dog, such as “Traumeel ad us”. vet. ” from HeelVet (100 pieces for 15 euros).

To support joints and cartilage, food supplements for dogs with the extract of green-lipped mussels are also recommended, such as “Green-lipped mussel powder” from AniForte (500g for 29 euros). Many dog ​​owners report positive effects on their dogs, but scientific proof of the supportive effects of green-lipped mussels is still pending.

3. Targeted muscle building and physiotherapy for osteoarthritis

Strong muscles stabilize and relieve the joint. With special exercises and training, good animal physiotherapists can specifically strengthen the muscles that are supposed to support the sick joint. In manual medicine, the animal physiotherapist can release painful muscle tension and mobilize the joint through passive movement. Physical applications, such as heat or cold, electrical stimulation, laser or ultrasound, have a targeted effect on local pain sources and thus help to reduce the amount of pain medication a little

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Gentle muscle building on the underwater treadmill. © stock.adobe.com/antoine-photographe

What to do if the treatment of osteoarthritis does not help?

Despite all the effort, it can happen that the treatments mentioned no longer help sufficiently. This is relatively often the case, for example, with osteoarthritis caused by hip dysplasia, in which the diseased joint can now be replaced by an artificial hip joint in a routine operation.

In other joints, however, such a replacement is often not yet possible or involves high risks. Other options include anti-inflammatory radiation therapy or stem cell therapy. In fact, amputation of the affected limb may be better for the dog than continuing to suffer from the pain. In the worst case, only euthanasia remains to relieve the dog from its suffering.