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Arthritis in dogs or canine osteoarthritis (OA) is a common yet often underdiagnosed condition, significantly impacting the quality of life of many beloved canine companions. Degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Understanding its prevalence, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for pet owners and veterinarians alike.

The Prevalence of Canine Osteoarthritis

Canine osteoarthritis is one of the most common diseases we treat at Aspen Veterinary Clinic. Research suggests that approximately 20% of dogs over the age of one are affected by osteoarthritis, with the prevalence increasing with age. In dogs over seven years old, the incidence of OA can be as high as 80%. Large breed dogs are particularly susceptible, but it's a condition that can affect dogs of all sizes and breeds.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Early detection of OA can be challenging, as dogs often mask their pain. However, there are tell-tale signs that pet owners can watch for:

  • Limping or Lameness: This may be more noticeable after rest or after long periods of activity.
  • Difficulty Moving: Struggling to get up, lying down, or reluctance to climb stairs.
  • Behavioral Changes: Less enthusiasm for play, irritability, or changes in interaction.
  • Joint Stiffness: Especially noticeable in the morning or in cold weather.
  • Licking, Chewing, or Biting: Particularly around the joints, indicating discomfort.

Top Treatment Options for Canine Osteoarthritis

Managing OA in dogs involves a multifaceted approach focusing on reducing pain and inflammation, improving joint function, and enhancing quality of life.

  • Weight Management and Diet: Maintaining an ideal body weight reduces stress on the joints. Special diets formulated for joint health, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and other natural anti-inflammatory ingredients, can also be beneficial.
  • Exercise: Regular, gentle exercise helps maintain joint mobility and muscle strength. Avoid high-impact activities that can exacerbate joint pain.
  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to manage pain and inflammation. However, they should be used cautiously due to potential side effects.
  • Biological Medications: Monoclonal antibody therapy is revolutionizing treatment of OA. These new age medications target inflammatory pathways to reduce and sometimes reverse degenerative joint disease and OA while having minimal to no long term side effects.
  • Supplements: Trusted joint supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and other natural anti-inflammatory ingredients such as boswellia complex and curcumin can support cartilage health and reduce discomfort. Dasuquin® Advanced Soft Chews are a great choice.
  • Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation: Techniques like massage, hydrotherapy, and specific exercises can improve joint flexibility and muscle strength.
  • Laser Therapy: Laser therapy can be highly effective in reducing inflammation and pain in osteoarthritic joints, as well as improving circulation and speeding up healing during injuries.
  • Surgical Options: In severe cases, surgical interventions like joint replacement may be considered.

Early detection and a proactive approach to treatment can significantly improve the quality of life for affected dogs. As research continues to advance, new treatment options may become available, offering further hope for our canine companions suffering from this condition. As always, working closely with a veterinarian to tailor a specific treatment plan for your dog is crucial for the best outcomes.

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