Is your dog not acting like himself lately? Maybe he seems more lethargic and doesn’t want to be as active as he once did? He could be suffering from osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease. 

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a form of chronic joint inflammation caused by the deterioration of joint cartilage. When the cartilage between the bones wears away, the end of one bone touches the end of the other bone in the joint during movement. Because bones have nerves, when the two bones touch, the dog will feel pain.

Signs of Osteoarthritis

Symptoms of the disease can vary and are dependent on the age of the dog, the severity of the disease, and the joints affected. Some common signs include:

  • An altered gait—because the dog will favor unaffected limbs, putting more weight on them, his walk might be noticeably different
  • Difficulty getting up after lying down and a general “stiffness”
  • Difficulty going up and down stairs or jumping onto furniture or into cars
  • Changes in appetite—dogs in more pain might not want to eat as much as they once did
  • Changes in behavior—dogs in pain might also seem to be depressed and might sleep more than they once did
  • Licking or biting around the painful area

Diagnosing Osteoarthritis

To diagnose osteoarthritis, we will talk with you about your dog’s history and the signs of disease you’re noticing. We’ll perform a physical exam, take X-rays, and run laboratory tests.

Treating Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that will worsen with time, but it can be treated and managed to allow for a good quality of life. Just like the signs of osteoarthritis in dogs will vary based on age, severity of the disease, and the joints affected, so too will the treatment options. If your dog is diagnosed with osteoarthritis, we might recommend:

  • Weight management
  • A safe, appropriate, and regular exercise regimen
  • Physical therapy and/or massage
  • Medications and/or supplements
  • Altering household items, like elevating food and water bowls, building ramps so dogs can avoid stairs, etc.
  • Surgery (for some severe cases of chronic osteoarthritis, especially in younger dogs)

Contact us if your dog is showing signs of osteoarthritis.