What Is It?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is also known as a degenerative joint disease (DJD), or simply arthritis. It is a slow, progressive cartilage degeneration that includes osteophytes or bone spurs that form along the joint margins. It is usually caused by trauma or abnormal wear of the joint’s bones, which leads to the destruction of the cartilage that cushions the joints. As the cartilage wears away, the joints become more inflamed, unstable, and painful. It can occur in any joint but is most commonly seen in the elbows, hips, and knees.
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Who Gets It?

It can affect any dog in any joint. It is common in dogs with a joint congenital condition, such as patellar luxation or hip dysplasia. However, it is most commonly seen in medium to larger breed dogs, and older dogs are at the greatest risk.
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What Are The Signs?

Usually, owners begin to notice that their dog is slower or more reluctant to participate in normal activities such as running, jumping, getting into the car, or using stairs. He/she is often stiff and slow to get up in the morning or after resting and tires much more easily. The dog will have an altered gait as he/she tries to shift weight to the unaffected limbs. This can lead to muscle atrophy of the affected limb(s) since the dog avoids using those legs. Some dogs with OA will seek warm, soft places to sleep and bite at or lick the painful joint. Is doesn’t usually cause swollen joints, and the pain is a dull, aching type, so most dogs do not cry out in pain.
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How Is It Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on the dog’s history, clinical signs, and physical exam. Your veterinarian will also take radiographs to assess the degree of osteoarthritis in the joints.
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Why Did This Happen To My Dog?

There is not one primary cause of OA, but there are several secondary causes. For example, the condition may form as a result of trauma, abnormal wear on the joint and cartilage, or from a congenital defect such as hip or elbow dysplasia. It will form in any joint that is suffering from instability. It can form as the result of an injury such as dislocation of the kneecap or shoulder, cruciate ligament tear, or a fracture involving the joint. Dogs with osteochondritis dessicans (OCD) usually develop OA due to the formation and abnormal flap of cartilage in the joint. Obesity is also a factor in developing this, as excess weight puts additional wear and strain on the joints.
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How Is It Treated?

Neither medical nor surgical treatment can cure it. Rather, the goal is to alleviate the symptoms, slow the disease’s progression, and make the animal more comfortable. Anti-inflammatories are usually prescribed to decrease pain and inflammation in the joint. Exercise and physical therapy can help maintain the normal motion of the supporting muscles’ joint and tone. Heat and cold therapy can also be used to manage pain and inflammation. Joint supplements are given to slow OA’s progression by maintaining joint cartilage and promoting new cartilage synthesis. In some dogs, surgery can be performed to remove aggravating bone and cartilage fragments. Total hip and elbow replacements are also performed in some severe cases. Your veterinarian can help you decide the best plan for managing your pet’s OA, and whether or not he/she is a good candidate for surgery.
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Can It Be Prevented?

When adopting a puppy, it is good to understand the common orthopedic conditions that affect the particular breed. The earlier a joint condition is recognized, the sooner you can take steps to slow its progression in that joint. Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can be used to maintain joint health. Weight control is critical in preventing or slowing OA because excess weight puts additional strain on the joints. Regular veterinary exams are also important in monitoring the progression.
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What Is The Prognosis For My Dog?

Because it is progressive and continues to worsen over time, the sooner a problem is detected, the better the prognosis. Medical treatment can slow the development of OA and keep your dog comfortable and active for years. Even in cases that progress to the point where surgery is indicated, recovery is usually good. The most important thing is to monitor the disease’s progression and take the necessary steps to support the joints’ health and the dog as a whole.
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