Many dog parents have faced a diagnosis of joint disease in their canine friend, which often leads to lifelong treatment and management. There are several types of joint disease, including osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and dysplasia. Although these are just a few types of joint disease, they affect many dogs. This article discusses osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and dysplasia to help dog parents obtain a well-rounded understanding of the diseases.
Basic anatomy of dog joints:
- The place where two bones join together is called a joint and most joints are mobile, or designed to move.
- Joints are full of cartilage, which is a protective layer between the two bones. Cartilage functions to reduce the friction between the two bones, protecting them from rubbing together and breaking.
- A membrane, called the synovial membrane, covers the bones involved in the joint and secretes fluid. This fluid is called synovial fluid and it functions to lubricate the joint and also reduce friction.
- Fluid filled sacs, called bursae, are located in the joint to help cushion it.
Common Joint Disease in Dogs
Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease and is caused by degradation of joint cartilage over time. The cartilage production slows down as dogs age, resulting in the loss of the protective layer between the two bones in a joint. This eventually lets the bones to rub against each other, causing pain and inflammation. The bones also lose their shape and are damaged.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is not as common as osteoarthritis in dogs. It is caused by the dog’s immune system attacking the joints. This also causes a loss of cartilage and usually very painful inflammation.
Joints can be formed improperly or incompletely, called dysplasia, which can eventually result in the two bones separating from the joint. Dysplasia in dogs most commonly affects their elbows and hips, and it is believed to be partly caused by genetics.
How to help your dog without medicine:
- Keep your dog at healthy weight. Their joints are already working hard and extra weight will only make their condition worse. Have a veterinarian evaluate your pet’s weight to see if weight loss is needed. Your dog’s veterinarian will likely be able to help you design a weight loss program.
- Feed your dog a healthy diet. Your dog’s veterinarian will be able to suggest diet changes, if needed, to help maintain a healthy weight while providing nutrients your dog’s joints need.
- Make your dog’s environment safe and easy on them. When your dog’s joints deteriorate and they experience pain, using stairs and jumping on/off objects can be difficult. Keep your dog’s mobility in mind and moving objects like bowls, beds, and toys can be beneficial.
- Exercise your dog as directed by your dog’s veterinarian. Some joint conditions will benefit from exercise and others are worsened. The veterinarian will know if exercise will help your dog’s joint disease and will likely have some great recommendations.
Medications for joint disease in dogs:
- Joint supplements provide key nutrients for your dog’s joints. For more information about joint supplements, stay tuned to the VetRxDirect blog because an article will be released soon talking about joint supplements for dogs.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s) are prescription medications for dogs that decrease inflammation and pain. Examples include Rimadyl (Carprofen) Meloxidyl (Meloxicam), Etogesic (Etodolac), Feldene (Piroxicam) Deramaxx (Deracoxib), and Previcox (firocoxib). See our blog post “Important Information on NSAID’s for Pets” for more information about NSAID’s for dogs!
- Steroids also decrease inflammation and swelling, but to a larger degree than NSAID’s do. With their increased effectiveness, come increased side effects. Usually steroids are given as a last resort or for bad flare ups of joint disease.
Does your dog have any other joint diseases? What other bone and joint supplements or prescription pain relievers have you given your dog? Please share with our pet parent audience by leaving a reply below. Thank you.