Arthritis in Dog Hips

Arthritis in dogs is an often debilitating condition that affects roughly 20% of all adult dogs. While arthritis generally occurs during the geriatric stage of life, it can affect younger dogs as well. The key to providing a better quality of life for a dog with arthritis is to understand the condition and its symptoms, as well as which methods of treatment may be the most beneficial.

Arthritis in Dogs Explained

Arthritis is a general term used to describe several different diseases that essentially have the same affect on the joints of a dog. Simply put, arthritis in dogs occurs when there is inflammation of the joints. Because arthritis has been known to occur at a rate of about one in five adult dogs, it is often one of the most common conditions of pain treated by veterinary medicine. It is important to remember that arthritis is not just for the elderly or injured. Even though it occurs more commonly in older dogs, a small percentage of younger dogs are affected by arthritis as well.

Causes and Types

Because arthritis itself is more of a general condition, there are many different diseases linked to it. In dogs, arthritis generally presents itself as the result of either degenerative joint disease or a dysfunction of the immune system, known as an autoimmune disorder.

Arthritis associated with degenerative joint disease generally occurs due to repetitive pressure and use, otherwise known as aging. This type of arthritis can occur in younger dogs when there is a genetic predisposition. However, it is more commonly seen in older dogs because the joints become lax after years of use. Because this type of arthritis in dogs is typically age-related, the treatment options are geared toward alleviating the symptoms.

Arthritis associated with an autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system becomes misguided and begins attacking the structures of a dog’s body, essentially reducing function of the joints and causing irritation. There may be a genetic predisposition toward this type of arthritis in certain breeds, but the most important thing to do here is identify why the immune system has been misguided and treat it appropriately.

Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs

The best way to get relief for a dog with arthritis is to be aware of the signs. Arthritis usually manifests over time, unless an autoimmune disease is the culprit, and many of the signs are commonly mistaken for other conditions. Some of the signs that may indicate arthritis in dogs include:

  • Limping
  • Favoring one leg over the other
  • Painful appearance when walking
  • Lack of desire to exercise or play
  • Avoiding stairs
  • Urinating/defecating in the house

Treatment Options for Dog Arthritis

In order to find a treatment option that works, it is important to try to determine the root cause of arthritis. Veterinarians usually run a course of several tests to try to determine etiology, including x-rays, blood work and sometimes ultrasounds. Dietary restrictions may help alleviate some of the symptoms of arthritis in overweight dogs, as well as implementing a regular exercise routine. In addition, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medications are usually given to help reduce inflammation in the joints. If an autoimmune disease has been determined, medications may also be given to help suppress the misguided reactions of the immune system.