Did you know that arthritis in one of the oldest diseases known to man? There is evidence that dinosaurs had arthritis as well as early humans.  This is a disease that does not discriminate so we shouldn't be surprised when our pets start to get stiff and achy.  Arthritis affects 20% of adult dogs, that is 1 in 5. It is one of the most common causes of chronic pain that veterinarians treat.

Joints are composed of the bones, ligaments from surrounding muscles and the capsule that encases the joint.  The joint capsule has a thick outer membrane and a thinner inner layer containing blood vessels and nerves called the synovial membrane.  The end of each bone is covered with articular cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber and does not have blood vessels or nerves.  Cartilage is nourished and lubricated by the fluid produced by the synovial membrane, synovial fluid.  The lack of nerves in cartilage means that significant damage has probably already occurred before your pet even feels it. 

Articular cartilage is made of chondrocytes (cartilage cells) and the surrounding tissue called the matrix.  The matrix is made of collagen, water and proteoglycans.  The proteoglycan molecule has a central core of protein and side chains of glycosaminoglycans or GAGs.  Glucosamine is a popular treatment for arthritis because it is a precursor chemical for glycosaminoglycan synthesis.

Symptoms

Since your dog can't actually talk to you, how can you tell if your dog may have arthritis?  Some common symptoms are:

  • Favoring a limb
  • Difficulty sitting or standing
  • Sleeping more
  • Seeming to have stiff or sore joints
  • Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased activity or less interest in play
  • Attitude or behavior changes
  • Being less alert

If you notice these symptoms for longer than two weeks schedule an appointment with your vet for a thorough checkup. 

Treatment

There is good news in that the treatments for osteoarthritis in humans and in canines is similar:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get regular exercise
  • Use proper medication. Don't try to figure it out yourself.  Work with your veterinarian to find a treatment that helps relieve the pain.

Some commonly recommended medications are:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS): the most common form of pharmaceutical treatment for arthritis in dogs.
  • Over-the-counter pet treatments, such as pills or food containing either glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate or Omega fatty acids. Both have shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis in dogs.  We have several options for joint health, please ask.
  • A veterinarian-prescribed NSAID and an over-the-counter treatment that together may help decrease pain and disease progression.

Most importantly keep your pet's lifestyle healthy.  Let your dog take you for a walk, instead of kicking your dog off the couch so you can stretch out, grab the leash and get off the couch yourself. You’ll both strengthen the muscles around your joints, which reduces stress on the joint itself. But don’t overdo it. Both of you need to increase exercise levels slowly and stay hydrated. Monitor how you both feel after the walk to determine if you need to increase or decrease your level next time.