With the onset of colder weather, certain conditions that affect our pets can start to worsen. One of these conditions is Osteoarthritis (or OA for short) and below we take a closer look at the disorder and what can be done if your dog is diagnosed with it.
What is OA?
Osteoarthritis is a disorder that slowly develops over time, caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage found in the joints. Commonly affected joints are high-motion joints that move a lot, such as the knee, elbow, shoulder, and hip.
How many dogs are affected by OA?
It is estimated that there are over six million dogs in the UK, and that 80% of those dogs aged 8 years and older have the disorder. That said, it can also affect young animals less than1 year of age.
What should I be looking out for?
Most of the signs are typical of what you might expect from a joint disorder, including restricted joint function and muscle loss. Questions to ask yourself can include:
- Does your dog lag behind on walks?
- Do they hesitate before jumping into the car or on to the sofa?
- Do they struggle to get up the stairs?
- Do they limp after exercise?
- Are they restless at night?
You may also find that your dog’s behaviour has changed, their amount of activity has reduced, and they are showing stiffness after periods of rest.
What treatment is available?
There are various stages of treatment that are available to help those animals suffering from OA, and any treatment given should be based on the advice of a veterinary professional. These include:
- Control of body weight
A good place to start is with weight loss, which not only helps reduce the rate of deterioration in the joint but can lower the level of discomfort for your dog through having less pressure on their joints.
As well as complimenting and aiding the weight loss treatment, exercising your dog will help to maintain their muscle strength and overall fitness. The severity of OA in your pet will dictate the intensity of any exercise undertaken, but it is said that generally it should be little and often (typically three lead walks per day).
- Pain Control
Several options are available for helping to control your dog’s discomfort, including:
- Nutritional Supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids
- Anti-inflammatory medication (as prescribed by a vet)
- Warm/Cold compresses to warm up stiff joints or reduce inflammation.
If any of the above options have not proved successful in controlling the condition, then surgical procedures such as joint replacement or joint fusion could be considered, but once again, this would be after consultation with a vet.
Will any treatment cure my pet’s OA?
Unfortunately, no, but the use and management of treatment means that most animals can enjoy an excellent quality of life.
If you feel that your dog is displaying symptoms of OA, or have any concerns, please contact us to discuss advice and next steps.
More information, as well as useful resources for tracking the signs of OA, can be found on the Canine Arthritis Management (CAM) website.