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Arthritis in Dogs

Arthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Arthritis in dogs is inflammation and degeneration of the joints. Arthritis in dogs is caused by wear and tear on joints, genetic predisposition, injuries, obesity, infections, autoimmune diseases, congenital disorders, poor nutrition, and environmental factors. 

Dog arthritis symptoms include limping or favoring one leg, stiffness after rest, difficulty moving, abnormal walking, reduced activity, muscle atrophy, joint swelling or warmth, difficulty rising or lying down, and licking or chewing joints. 

Owners wondering, “How to tell if dog has arthritis?” start by watching for limping, difficulty moving, reduced activity, and joint swelling or warmth. 

Ensure the dog is the correct weight and enjoys regular low-impact exercise to prevent arthritis. Joint supplements, such as CBD Mobility Oil, regular vet visits, and avoiding overexertion to minimize joint injury prevent arthritis. 

What is Arthritis in Dogs?

Arthritis in dogs is characterized by joint inflammation, leading to discomfort and reduced mobility. Arthritis is prevalent in senior dogs. “Osteoarthritis in dogs is a slowly progressive inflammatory disease characterized by degeneration of cartilage, bone hypertrophy, and changes in the synovial membrane, resulting in pain and stiffness of joints,” according to the study by Bland, S. titled “Canine Osteoarthritis and Treatments: A Review,” 2015.

Arthritis in dogs is referred to as dog arthritis or osteoarthritis in dogs.

How is Arthritis in Dogs compared to Degenerative Myelopathy?

Arthritis in dogs compared to Degenerative Myelopathy differs in causes, symptoms, and progression, although similar conditions affect mobility and quality of life. Arthritis affects the joints, causing inflammation and pain, while Degenerative Myelopathy is a neurological condition that affects the spinal cord, leading to progressive weakness.

 “Canine degenerative myelopathy is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting specific breeds of dogs, characterized by progressive motor neuron loss and paralysis until death or euthanasia,” according to the study by Crisp, M., Beckett, J., Coates, J., & Miller, T. titled “Canine degenerative myelopathy: Biochemical characterization of superoxide dismutase 1 in the first naturally occurring non-human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis model,” 2013. 

Arthritis symptoms include joint stiffness, swelling, and difficulty moving, whereas Degenerative Myelopathy manifests by hind limb weakness, muscle atrophy, and an uncoordinated gait. 

Arthritis progresses with intermittent flare-ups and periods of remission, while Degenerative Myelopathy deterioration is gradual. Arthritis impacts the joints, cartilage, and surrounding tissues, while Degenerative Myelopathy affects the nervous system, causing loss of coordination and balance. 

Arthritis in dogs is treatable, while Degenerative Myelopathy is not. 

How does Arthritis affect the musculoskeletal system in dogs?

Arthritis affects the musculoskeletal system in dogs by causing joint stiffness, reduced range of motion, and difficulty performing daily activities. “Arthritis in dogs is characterized by degeneration of articular cartilage, formation of new bone (osteophytes) at joint margins, and stiffness or lameness,” according to the study by Bierer, T., & Bui, L. titled “Improvement of arthritic signs in dogs fed green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus),” 2002.

Arthritis causes the cartilage within the joints to deteriorate, leading to bone-on-bone contact, exacerbating the pain, and limiting mobility.

Muscle atrophy, decreased quality of life, and irreversible joint damage are long-term effects of untreated arthritis in the musculoskeletal system in dogs.

What Causes Arthritis in Dogs?

The causes of arthritis in dogs are listed below.

  • Age: Joint wear and tear increases as dogs age, causing cartilage degeneration and joint tissue damage. Senior dogs are susceptible to arthritis.
  • Genetics:  Large and giant breeds, such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds, are predisposed to arthritis and hip and elbow dysplasia.
  • Joint Injuries: Joint injuries, such as fractures, ligament tears, cranial cruciate ligament injuries, or dislocations, lead to arthritis. 
  • Obesity: Excess weight stresses a dog's joints, accelerating the wear and tear on cartilage and increasing the risk of arthritis. 
  • Infections: Bacteria or fungal infections in the joint cause inflammation and damage, leading to septic arthritis.
  • Autoimmune Diseases: Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis lead to inflammation and arthritis because the disease causes the immune system to attack the joints.
  • Congenital or Developmental Disorders: Dogs born with joint abnormalities or developmental issues are at an increased risk of arthritis because their joints form and function incorrectly. 
  • Diet and Nutrition: Poor diet and lack of essential nutrients impact joint health and increase arthritis risk. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin assist in healthy cartilage and joint function.
  • Activity Level: Over-exercising leads to joint injuries, and lack of exercise results in muscle atrophy and joint stiffness and causes arthritis.
  • Environment: Constant exposure to hard or slippery surfaces causes repetitive joint stress and arthritis. 

Does Arthritis in dogs cause pain?

Yes, arthritis in dogs causes pain during movement or weight-bearing activities. “Osteoarthritis in dogs causes chronic signs of pain, which can be assessed using the Helsinki chronic pain index (HCPI),” according to the study by Hielm-Björkman, A., Rita, H., & Tulamo, R. Titled “Psychometric testing of the Helsinki chronic pain index by completion of a questionnaire in Finnish by owners of dogs with chronic signs of pain caused by osteoarthritis,” 2009.

Arthritis pain is evident in the morning or after periods of inactivity. Arthritis pain increases as the joints deteriorate, making walking or climbing stairs challenging for dogs. 

What age do dogs typically start showing signs of Arthritis?

Dogs typically start showing signs of arthritis at 8 years of age, however, dogs show signs of arthritis as early as 1 year. The exact age varies depending on the breed and individual health. Joints degenerate as dogs age, increasing the risk of arthritis. Obesity and previous injuries accelerate the development of arthritis in dogs. Great Danes develop arthritis earlier than smaller breeds like Chihuahuas due to physiology and genetic predisposition. Obesity and previous injuries accelerate the development of arthritis in dogs.

The mean age at admission for dogs with polyarthritis was 5.6 +/- 4 years,” according to the study by Jacques, D., Cauzinille, L., Bouvy, B., & Dupré, G. titled “A retrospective study of 40 dogs with polyarthritis,” 2002.

Can puppies develop Arthritis?

Yes, puppies can develop arthritis, especially if they have genetic predispositions or have experienced joint injuries at a young age. “Puppies can develop arthritis, as seen in a 14-week-old dalmatian dog with infectious juvenile osteomyelitis, epiphysitis, and arthritis,” according to the study by Bittegeko, S., Arnbjerg, J., & Heje, N. titled “Infectious epiphysitis and arthritis in a puppy,” 1993. 

Arthritis in puppies is associated with developmental issues, congenital abnormalities, or trauma. Puppy arthritis symptoms include limping, stiffness after rest, reluctance to play or exercise, and irritability due to pain.

What are the Common Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs?

The common symptoms of arthritis in dogs are listed below. 

  • Limping or Lameness: Limping or favoring one leg, which is more pronounced after rest or exercise, is a common symptom of arthritis in dogs hind legs.
  • Stiffness: Dogs with stiff joints after rest are a symptom of arthritis in dogs.
  • Difficulty Moving: Dogs have trouble performing everyday activities such as climbing stairs, jumping into the car, walking, playing or getting onto furniture, which are symptoms of dog arthritis.
  • Changes in Gait: Dogs with an abnormal walking pattern or uneven gait are a symptom of arthritis. 
  • Reduced Activity: Dogs with arthritis become less active and resist activities they enjoy.
  • Behavioral Changes: Dogs become more irritable, anxious, or withdrawn due to arthritis pain. 
  • Muscle Atrophy: Muscles around the affected joints become weaker and shrink due to reduced use, an arthritis symptom in dogs.
  • Swelling or Heat: The affected joints appear swollen or warm to the touch, indicating inflammation and an arthritis symptom.
  • Difficulty Rising or Lying Down: Dogs with arthritis struggle to rise from a lying or sitting position and do so slowly or with visible effort.
  • Licking or Chewing Joints: Dogs lick, chew, or bite at their joints to relieve the pain or discomfort of arthritis.
  • Change in Posture: Dogs adopt unusual postures, such as a hunched back, to avoid putting pressure on painful joints, an arthritis symptom. 

How to tell if your Dog has Arthritis?

To tell if your dog has arthritis, observe their gait, monitor activity levels, and note any signs of discomfort or stiffness during movement. A thorough veterinary examination is essential for an accurate diagnosis. “Common clinical signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs and horses include limping, immobility, stiffness of joints, and pain upon manipulation of the joint and limb,” according to the study by Gupta, R. titled “Nutraceuticals in arthritis,” 2021.

Difficulty climbing stairs, jumping onto furniture, or walking for extended periods are early signs of arthritis in dogs. 

What are the Signs of Arthritis in Dogs?

The signs of arthritis in dogs are listed below. 

  • Limping or Lameness: Dogs favor one leg over the others or limp, which is more noticeable after periods of rest or vigorous activity.
  • Stiffness: Stiffness in the morning or after rest is a sign of arthritis. 
  • Difficulty Moving: Dogs have trouble walking, running, or playing.
  • Changes in Gait: An abnormal walking pattern, such as bunny-hopping or stilted gait, is a sign of arthritis.
  • Reduced Activity: A decrease in activity, including reluctance to walk and play.
  • Behavioral Changes: Behavioral changes such as irritability, aggression, anxiety, or withdrawal are arthritis signs.
  • Difficulty Rising or Lying Down: Dogs that struggle to get up from lying down or to lie down comfortably are signs of arthritis.
  • Licking, Chewing, or Biting Joints: Dogs licking, chewing, or biting their joints to relieve pain are signs of arthritis.

How does Arthritis affect a dog's mobility?

Arthritis affects a dog’s mobility by challenging walking, running, jumping, or engaging in physical activities. Joint stiffness and pain limit the range of motion in affected dogs. “Arthritis in dogs causes severe chronic pain in joints, leading to lameness at walk, reduced mobility, and functional disability,” according to the study by Shah, K., Drury, T., Roic, I., Hansen, P., Malin, M., Boyd, R., Sumer, H., & Ferguson, R. titled “Outcome of Allogeneic Adult Stem Cell Therapy in Dogs Suffering from Osteoarthritis and Other Joint Defects,” 2018.

Can Arthritis lead to more severe health issues in dogs?

Yes, arthritis in dogs leads to more severe health issues in dogs. Chronic pain, limited mobility, and irreversible joint damage impact a dog’s quality of life when arthritis is untreated or improperly treated.

Arthritis can lead to severe joint dysfunction and even limb amputation in dogs,” according to the study by Clarke, S., & Ferguson, J. titled “Bacterial infective arthritis following a penetrating stick injury of the stifle joint in a dog,” 2012.

Can Arthritis in dogs lead to spinal problems?

Yes, arthritis in dogs can lead to spinal problems in advanced cases. Degenerative changes in the spine affect nerve function and mobility, exacerbating existing joint issues and spinal health. “Arthritis in dogs can lead to a reduction in spinal flexibility, causing problems for dogs required to be agile in work or sport,” according to the study by Vaughan, L. titled “Orthopaedic problems in old dogs,” 1990.

Arthritis causes inflammation in the spinal joints, leading to pain, reduced range of motion, and stiffness in the dog's hind legs. The inflammation affects the nerves in the spinal column, causing neuropathy and impacting the dog's ability to walk comfortably. Arthritis-related spinal problems result in neurological deficits, such as weakness or paralysis in the hind legs in severe cases.

How Long Can a Dog Live with Arthritis?

Dogs can live to a normal lifespan with arthritis, provided the condition is treated and managed. Correct management and care enhance the quality of life for dogs with arthritis. “Rheumatoid arthritis has a poor long-term prognosis, with an average life expectancy reduced by an average of 3 to 18 years,” according to the study by Choy, E., & Panayi, G. titled “Cytokine pathways and joint inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis,” 2001.

Factors that influence the longevity of a dog with arthritis include the age at which the arthritis developed, the specific joints affected, and the underlying cause of the condition. Euthanasia is an option for dogs that have lost interest in everyday activities due to mobility issues and pain associated with severe arthritis.

Does CBD Mobility Oil help relieve arthritis pain in dogs?

Yes, CBD Mobility Oil helps relieve arthritis pain in dogs. “Oral transmucosal cannabidiol (CBD) added to a multimodal pharmacological treatment for canine osteoarthritis improves owner reported pain scores and quality of life without severe adverse effects,” according to the study by Brioschi, F., et al titled “Oral Transmucosal Cannabidiol Oil Formulation as Part of a Multimodal Analgesic Regimen: Effects on Pain Relief and Quality of Life Improvement in Dogs Affected by Spontaneous Osteoarthritis,” 2020.

The use of CBD Mobility Oil for pain management in arthritic dogs is increasing due to its therapeutic benefits.

What are the Treatments for Arthritis in Dogs?

The treatments for arthritis in dogs are listed below. 

  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs reduce inflammation and pain, and common NSAIDs for dogs include carprofen, meloxicam, and deracoxib.
  • Pain Relievers: Pain medications such as tramadol or gabapentin are prescribed for more severe arthritis pain.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids have powerful anti-inflammatory effects but are used short-term due to side effects.
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements help support joint health and repair cartilage.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil help reduce inflammation and improve joint mobility.
  • Green-Lipped Mussel Extract: Green-lipped mussel extract has anti-inflammatory properties and helps alleviate joint pain.
  • Weight Management: Maintaining an optimal weight is crucial for dogs with arthritis. Excess weight places additional stress on joints, exacerbating the condition. 
  • Dietary Changes: Veterinarians design arthritis-specific diets to promote joint health in dogs with arthritis. 
  • Exercise and Physical Therapy: Gentle activities such as short walks, swimming, or controlled play help maintain joint mobility and muscle strength without overloading the joints. 
  • Alternative Therapies: Acupuncture and laser therapy relieve pain and inflammation and improve joint function in some dogs. Stem cell treatment repairs and regenerates damaged joint tissues.
  • Environmental Modifications: Orthopedic dog beds, ramps, and non-slip flooring reduce pressure on joints and alleviate arthritis pain.
  • Surgery: Surgical interventions such as joint replacement or arthroscopic surgery repair or replace damaged joints in severe cases.
  • Monitoring and Regular Vet Visits: Regular veterinary check-ups are required to manage arthritis. 

Can Arthritis in Dogs Resolve Without Surgery?

Yes, arthritis in dogs can resolve without surgery. Arthritis in dogs is managed through noninvasive treatment, lifestyle modifications, and ongoing monitoring. Surgical interventions are considered in severe cases or when noninvasive measures are ineffective.

 “Nonsurgical treatment using antibiotics can successfully resolve hematogenous septic arthritis in dogs, with no residual deficits observed,” according to the study by Fitch, R., Hogan, T., & Kudnig, S. titled “Hematogenous septic arthritis in the dog: results of five patients treated nonsurgically with antibiotics,” 2003.

What are the Risks of having Dog Arthritis?

The risks of having dog arthritis are listed below.

  • Chronic Pain: Arthritis causes persistent joint pain, which leads to behavioral changes such as irritability, aggression, or depression.
  • Reduced Mobility: Dogs have trouble walking, running, or climbing stairs. Reduced activity levels lead to muscle wasting.
  • Obesity: Reduced physical activity due to arthritis pain leads to weight gain and extra joint stress. 
  • Secondary Joint Issues: Dogs shift their weight to less painful limbs, leading to secondary arthritis in previously healthy joints.
  • Increased Risk of Injuries: Limited mobility and joint instability increase the risk of accidents, such as slipping on smooth surfaces or falling down stairs.
  • Behavioral Changes: Chronic pain makes dogs more irritable and aggressive if touched or handled in ways that exacerbate their pain.
  • Depression and Withdrawal: Dogs with arthritis are less social and more withdrawn due to their discomfort and inability to participate in normal activities.
  • Decreased Quality of Life: Chronic pain, limited mobility, and inability to engage in daily activities lessen a dog's quality of life.
  • Complications from Medications: Long-term use of NSAIDs causes gastrointestinal issues, kidney damage, and liver problems.
  • Shortened Lifespan: Severe, unmanaged arthritis shortens a dog's lifespan. 

How to Prevent Arthritis in Dogs?

To prevent arthritis in dogs, follow the 10 steps below.

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight. Feed dogs a nutritious, balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity places extra stress on joints, increasing the risk of arthritis. 
  2. Provide Regular Exercise. Ensure dogs get regular, moderate, and low-impact exercise to keep their muscles strong and joints flexible. 
  3. Use Joint Supplements. Glucosamine and Chondroitin support joint health and help prevent cartilage breakdown.Omega-3 Fatty Acids reduce inflammation and support joint function.
  4. Ensure Proper Nutrition. Provide a well-balanced diet that includes essential nutrients for joint health.
  5. Avoid Overexertion. Avoid sudden increases in exercise intensity to minimize joint stress. 
  6. Regular Veterinary Check-Ups. Regular veterinary check-ups help detect and treat early signs of joint problems.
  7. Provide a Comfortable Living Environment. Provide a supportive bed to reduce pressure on joints during rest and rugs or mats to prevent slips and falls on hard floors.
  8. Prevent and Treat Joint Injuries. Supervise play to prevent joint injuries from roughhousing or jumping. 
  9. Consider Genetics. Choose dog breeds less prone to joint issues, select breeders who test for genetic conditions, and prioritize healthy breeding practices.
  10. Manage Underlying Health Conditions. Consult a vet to monitor underlying conditions that affect joint health, such as diabetes and hormonal imbalances.

When Should You Seek Veterinary Care for a Dog with Arthritis Symptoms?

You should seek veterinary care for a dog with arthritis symptoms such as lameness or stiffness or behavioral changes such as withdrawal, irritability, or anxiety. 

Veterinarians conduct thorough physical examinations and recommend diagnostic tests such as X-rays or blood work to diagnose arthritis and assess its severity. The vet creates a tailored treatment plan that includes medication, joint supplements, physical therapy, or other interventions to alleviate pain and improve mobility.