Arthritis in dogs is a degenerative disease that causes stiffness in the joints and muscles, limiting the dog’s mobility. Although it varies in severity, in some cases arthritis in dogs can be extremely painful, just like it can be in people. And arthritis in dogs is a very common condition, afflicting up to one in every three to four dogs. That’s why information about dogs and arthritis is so important. Keep reading for some valuable information on the symptoms of arthritis in dogs, as well as what causes it.
Dogs and Arthritis: The Causes
This potentially very painful condition is common in older dogs because over time, wear and tear affects the joints. Younger dogs can also develop arthritis, although less frequently. Unlike the arthritis in older dogs that is often caused by ordinary wear and tear, accidents, injuries and certain infections, diseases and other health conditions like joint malformations (hip dysplasia, for example) are usually responsible for arthritis occurring in younger dogs. Arthritis can also be insidious in the sense that it might not become apparent for several years following an injury.
Although there are several forms of arthritis, the underlying cause of each type is inflammation in a joint. The different types of arthritis are categorized by what originally caused this inflammation.
Degenerative joint disease, frequently called osteoarthritis, is far and away the most common form of arthritis in dogs. Frequently associated with aging (as it is in people), osteoarthritis typically develops over the course of time. Ordinary wear and tear or injury to a joint can damage the joint’s ligaments and/or cartilage and reduce the production of the synovial fluid that lubricates and protects the bones. The ultimate result is joint tissue degeneration, stiffness and pain. Cartilage damage and subsequent arthritis can also be caused by excessive weight, jumping too frequently over obstacles, tearing or stretching ligaments during vigorous exercise, and joint malformations such as hip dysplasia or “loose” kneecaps, among other things.
The mechanism underlying the second main type of arthritis, called inflammatory joint disease, is different than the mechanical stress or trauma that’s responsible for degenerative joint disease. It is also much less common than osteoarthritis. This form of canine arthritis can be caused by a bacterial infection (staphylococcus or streptococcus, for example), a tick-borne disease such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever or a fungal infection in a joint, but it can also be caused by auto-immune disorders, some of which are hereditary. Rheumatoid arthritis is one example of arthritis caused by an auto-immune disorder, but fortunately it is rare in dogs. Arthritis resulting from an auto-immune disorder usually affects multiple joints.
Inflammatory joint disease is often characterized by systemic symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite and a generalized, overall stiffness. Unlike the form of arthritis that degenerative joint disease typically causes, which usually has a slow, gradual onset, the appearance of arthritis symptoms due to inflammatory joint disease is usually sudden and acute.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
The symptoms of arthritis in dogs are in general analogous to those of arthritis in humans, if you take into account the differences in anatomy. They can vary in severity from being barely detectable to being crippling and debilitating. Obviously, dogs cannot tell you they’re hurting, and most do not show any visible signs of pain until it becomes significant. These factors can make it difficult to accurately diagnose arthritis unless X-rays, an orthopedic exam and other more specific tests are performed by a qualified vet. You should never assume that your dog has arthritis just because it comes up lame one day or gets up slowly or stiffly after sleeping all night. Although it’s true that those symptoms could mean your dog has arthritis, they also might be signs of an entirely different health condition. Always take your dog to your veterinarian for assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
Notwithstanding the difficulty of making an accurate diagnosis, dogs suffering from arthritis typically exhibit one or more of the following symptoms of arthritis in dogs:
Slower gait: Dogs afflicted with arthritis often walk slowly in an attempt to balance out their limbs, especially when more than one joint is affected.
Dropped hip or nodding head: When only one hip is affected, the dog will often “drop” that hip so that it is carried physically lower than the other. A dog with an arthritic neck will often exhibit a nodding motion of the head.
Limping: A dog with an arthritic joint in a leg will naturally tend to favor that leg.
Reluctance to engage in normal activities: Dogs with arthritis tend to be reluctant to perform what were previously normal activities, such as climbing up or down stairs, running, jumping up on furniture, playing with balls or other toys, and going on walks. When they do go on walks, they often lag behind because they prefer to walk slowly.
Slowness or difficulty in rising from resting positions: Getting up slowly or stiffly after lying down is one of the fairly common symptoms of arthritis in dogs.
Personality changes: Some dogs with arthritis undergo changes in their personality. Becoming lethargic, depressed, nervous or overly aggressive are examples of the changes in temperament that can occur in dogs afflicted by arthritis. And, a previously very affectionate dog that loved physical attention from its owner may start resisting being touched.
Audible signals of distress: A dog that’s in significant pain may yelp, whimper or cry when it’s touched or it moves in a certain way.
Watching a dog that’s suffering from arthritis pain can be heart-wrenching. Although arthritis is not a health condition that can ever be completely cured, there are a number of things you can do to help your dog suffer less from painful arthritis symptoms. We hope this information on dogs and arthritis will help both you and your dog.
It is such a pain for a dog owner to see his four-legged best friend suffering from Arthritis
It really is heartbreaking however we all know that there is a good chance that one day or another our dog will experience this kind of disorder.
Many dog owners are not aware of all the different ailments that a dog can encounter in his life-span, and most important, the different causes and symptoms that could be very helpful to diagnose these conditions before they become major ones.
I created AboutDogsandpets.com to help dog owners to learn what are these different symptoms, so you will be much more reactive when such disorders occur, and then get the peace of mind that comes from being prepared