Canine Osteoarthritis: Understanding the Challenge and Embracing Solutions

Canine osteoarthritis (OA) is a common yet often underdiagnosed condition in dogs, significantly impacting their quality of life. As a degenerative joint disease, it's characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Understanding its prevalence, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for pet owners and veterinarians alike.

The Prevalence of Canine Osteoarthritis

Statistics reveal the widespread nature of this condition. Research suggests that approximately 20% of dogs over the age of one year are affected by osteoarthritis, with the prevalence increasing with age. In dogs over seven years old, the incidence of OA can be as high as 80%. Large breed dogs are particularly susceptible, but it's a condition that can affect canines of all sizes and breeds.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Early detection of OA can be challenging, as dogs often mask their pain. However, there are tell-tale signs that pet owners can watch for:

  • Limping or Lameness: This may be more noticeable after rest or after long periods of activity.
  • Difficulty Moving: Struggling to get up, lying down, or reluctance to climb stairs.
  • Behavioral Changes: Less enthusiasm for play, irritability, or changes in interaction.
  • Joint Stiffness: Especially noticeable in the morning or in cold weather.
  • Licking, Chewing, or Biting: Particularly around the joints, indicating discomfort.

Top Treatment Options for Canine Osteoarthritis

Managing OA in dogs involves a multifaceted approach focusing on reducing pain and inflammation, improving joint function, and enhancing quality of life.

  • Weight Management and Diet: Maintaining an ideal body weight reduces stress on the joints. Special diets formulated for joint health, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine, can also be beneficial.
  • Exercise: Regular, gentle exercise helps maintain joint mobility and muscle strength. Avoid high-impact activities that can exacerbate joint pain.
  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to manage pain and inflammation. However, they should be used cautiously due to potential side effects.
  • Monoclonal Antibody Treatment: The newest treatment option is a long-acting monthly injection given by a veterinarian that has fewer side effects than NSAIDs. This treatment is now available at Owings Mills Veterinary Center.
  • Supplements: Joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can support cartilage health and reduce discomfort.
  • Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation: Techniques like massage, hydrotherapy, and specific exercises can improve joint flexibility and muscle strength.
  • Laser Therapy: As previously discussed, laser therapy can be highly effective in reducing inflammation and pain in osteoarthritic joints.
  • Acupuncture: Some pet owners opt for acupuncture as a complementary treatment to alleviate pain and improve overall joint function.
  • Surgical Options: In severe cases, surgical interventions like joint replacement may be considered.

As always, working closely with a veterinarian to tailor a specific treatment plan for your dog is crucial for the best outcomes. As research continues to advance, new treatment options may become available, offering further hope for our canine companions suffering from this condition. At Owings Mills Veterinary Center, we are proud to now offer the latest treatment for osteoarthritis in dogs, which is a once-monthly monoclonal antibody injection administered by your veterinarian. If you’d like to find out whether this new treatment is right for your dog, give us a call today at (410) 807-8193. Click here to book an appointment online.