Symptoms of Canine Osteoarthritis: Degenerative Arthritis in Dogs

Canine osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that’s very common in dogs and one that can make your pet’s life miserable. More than 20 percent of dogs are afflicted with this crippling disease and although it frequently strikes older dogs, pets of all ages and breeds can suffer from osteoarthritis.

Canine Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis in dogs is a degenerative joint disorder that’s chronic and progressive in nature. It occurs when the existing, smooth cartilage between 2 bones deteriorates or breaks down. The primary function of this cartilage is to cover and protect the ends of bones within a movable joint. Cartilage deterioration causes the exposed bones to rub against each other when the joint is moved, resulting in discomfort, inflammation, decreased mobility and pain.

As the disease progresses, small bony projections form on that part of the bone that’s close to the joint. These projections, also known as osteophytes, exacerbate the pain and inflammation. Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of lameness in dogs. Large breed dogs and obese dogs are most likely to suffer from osteoarthritis as they grow older. This is because more strain is placed on their joints and ligaments.

Causes of Canine Osteoarthritis:

  • Aging and the resultant wear and tear of joints
  • Congenital disease such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia
  • Trauma to the joints
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic diseases such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease 
  • High activity levels in working dogs that can place stress on joints and cause degenerative joint diseases

Symptoms of Canine Osteoarthritis

A pet with osteoarthritis will exhibit changes in mood and can either be irritable and aggressive or very quiet and withdrawn. He may also show a preference for solitude and tend to avoid company. Symptoms such as stiffness, limping and lameness can be observed early in the morning or after your pet has had a nap. These symptoms may lessen as the day progresses.

Your pet may appear reluctant to move unless it’s necessary, and prefer not to run or climb stairs. You may also observe that he is reluctant to rise from a sitting position. He may experience difficulty in standing or sitting and may prefer to lie down or sleep throughout the day. Even a well trained pet might start urinating inside the house due to his reluctance to move.

Other Symptoms of Canine Osteoarthritis

Your pet might display a reluctance to be touched or petted and may cry out if he’s you touch an area that’s painful. Depression, increase in weight and lethargy are other common symptoms of osteoarthritis as is a decrease in alertness. Swollen and painful joints are other telltale symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Loss of appetite due to pain and depression are commonly seen in dogs suffering from this condition. All these symptoms are exacerbated in winter or otherwise cold and damp conditions. Dogs with osteoarthritis generally prefer softer bedding and sleep in warmer areas of the house.

Although these symptoms are common to other diseases, it’s best to have your pet examined by a vet at the onset of these symptoms so that the condition is correctly diagnosed and treated. Proper treatment that includes exercise, weight loss diet and administration of anti-inflammatory medications can ensure that your pet leads a normal life for years to come.