According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of arthritis is “the inflammation of joints.” Arthritis can be caused by a wide variety of conditions, such as infection (especially from a tick-borne disease), immune-mediated disease, trauma, and metabolic issues. The most common form of arthritis in dogs, however, is due to degenerative changes caused by developmental problems, age or overuse.
According to Pet Health Network, while all dogs regardless of age or breed can be affected by arthritis, certain factors increase a dog’s risk. Poor conformation, for example, can make a dog much more likely to develop arthritis. Large breeds, such as Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and German Shepherds, are more prone to arthritis, and obese dogs are more likely to develop it than are their fit counterparts. Additionally, older dogs are prone to arthritis because of the years of wear and tear on their joints.
Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD): This is the long-term deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints. This cartilage allows the joint to move in pain-free motions.When it becomes inflamed or wears down, your pet will most likely experience pain. Read more about DJD.
Hip dysplasia: This is a genetic developmental disease that results in malformation of the hip joint (a ball-and-socket joint). Chronic inflammation of the hip joints occurs because of misalignment, and the cartilage in the joint gradually deteriorates, causing pain and inflammation. There are various surgical procedures available to help dogs with hip dysplasia, as well as medications that can help alleviate the pain associated with it.
If you are considering a purebred puppy that may be at risk for hip dysplasia, consider getting a puppy from a breeder who has had both parents certified against hip dysplasia and other inherited forms of joint disease by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). To learn more about OFA certification, visit their Web site at offa.org. Genetic screening for hip dysplasia is available for Labradors, as well, using the Hip Dysplasia DNA Dysgen Test®.
Elbow dysplasia: This is a hereditary disease in which the bones do not develop normally, causing misalignment of the joint, damage to the cartilage, and even chipping of the bones, which leads to chronic inflammation. This is most common in larger-breed dogs and is thought to be inherited. Surgery is often needed to correct this problem.
Knee dysplasia: Some dogs, especially small toy breeds, will have malformed knee joints. As with hip and elbow dysplasia, this is an inherited conformational defect that causes arthritis. Some of these dogs will also have knee caps that pop in and out of position; the medical term for this is “luxating patella.” A dog suffering from this will limp until the knee cap returns to the correct position. Surgery is often needed to correct knee dysplasia.
Signs & Symptoms
Arthritis can be mild to severe; your four-legged friend may experience different signs depending on the severity of the arthritis.
Signs and symptoms include:
Diagnosis & Treatment
In order to treat your dog’s arthritis, your veterinarian will want to perform a thorough physical exam and take a complete history of your best friend. Your veterinarian will perform simple motion tests and observe your dog’s movements.
They may recommend the follow additional tests, as well: