What is arthritis?

The word arthritis is used to describe pain, swelling and stiffness in a joint or joints. Arthritis isn’t a single condition and there are several different types which lead to varying arthritic symptoms. It can also be described as an inflammation of the joints; whether it be in humans, dogs or horses.

Canine Arthritis

Supporting your dog with their arthritis pain

What is dog arthritis?

The word ‘arthritis’ is used to describe pain, swelling and stiffness in a joint or joints. Arthritis isn’t a single condition and there are several different types. It can also be described as an inflammation of the joints; whether it be in humans, dogs or horses.

The most common types of dog arthritis are:

Canine Osteoarthritis Arthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis (OA) or degenerative joint disease (DJD), is a degenerative or “wear and tear” arthritis; this often affects people, dogs and horses as they get older. This is the most common form of ‘dog arthritis’ and can be stubborn to provide relief for.

Canine Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid (RA) which is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints. The body mistake it’s own protein for foreign protein and tries to eliminate them, usually degrading the cartilage.

Rheumatoid arthritis is relatively uncommon in dogs. However, it has been known to affect greyhounds, as well as smaller/toy breeds such as miniature poodles.

Another form of dog arthritis is ‘Septic arthritis‘ which occurs when there is a bacterial infection of a joint resulting from either a puncture wound, bite, allergy or reaction to certain drugs or vaccines.  This typically affects a single joint.

What causes arthritis?

Normally arthritis is a condition seen mainly in older dogs; however, the problem can develop from an early age, especially if there have been issues with bone and joint development. Depending on the source of the problem, arthritis may affect one or a variety of your dog’s joints.

Ageing is certainly a contributing factor to the development of osteoarthritis / degenerative joint disease, but there are other factors to consider too, such as old injuries and metabolic disorders. It is important to note, that as dog’s age the cartilage in their joints begins to thin/reduce (as with us). The cartilage is designed to cushion and protect the bones in the joint, so if it thins too much, then the bones can eventually rub against each other. The friction causes the bone to break down, resulting in pain and loss of mobility.

Dog arthritis treatment

Arthritis is most common in overweight and unfit dogs, so sometimes a combination of weight control and exercise management is the most important therapy. Maximising the range of movement and fitness of the muscles around those joints, as well as minimising the load on the joints is essential. It is, however, very important to match any treatment with their underlying cause and joint(s) involved, as there are so many alternative dog therapies available nowadays.

Many patients benefit from anti-inflammatory therapy for a few weeks or months, with long-term drug therapy proving useful in some cases. It is essential to consider all non-medication treatments before accepting long-term drug options though, as lifestyle changes and alternative dog therapies will have fewer side effects and, in some instances, similar results.

Can dog arthritis be cured?

As previously outlined, there is currently no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments that can slow it down. Sadly it’s the case that once cartilage in your dog’s joint(s) has been damaged it rarely repairs itself completely. 

It’s not all bad news though, as there are many ways that the condition can be managed to ensure that your dog can be pain-free; whether it’s by the use of medication, appropriate lifestyle changes or alternative therapies.

Commonly used techniques for arthritic pain relief

NSAID medications are commonly used to treat the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, post-surgery discomfort, or other pain. There are, however, health risks associated with using NSAIDs in dogs for extended periods of time, especially if not used according to directions, or if the animal has other health problems. All NSAIDs can cause side effects, the most common being vomiting, loss of appetite, depression, and diarrhoea. More severe side effects include stomach or intestinal ulcers, liver failure, kidney failure, and in some cases even death. In essence, they are not ‘long term solutions’. As public awareness increases, there has been a significant improvement in the range of holistic and more natural treatments.

Traditional magnetic collars and magnetic beds have been used for decades; with a mixed reputation. Traditional magnets create a pulse which increases the heat locally; this increase in temperature helps increase blood flow. Traditional magnetic devices, collars, beds and ceramic coats have been miss sold for many years, claiming to support a vast array of health conditions. Increasing heat/blood flow is just a small step in the process of helping many conditions, including arthritis and in some cases can be detrimental to the dog.