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  • Writer's pictureAmber Garner

Canine Osteoarthritis: Not just a senior ailment

When most of us think about our dog's getting osteoarthritis (OA) we usually expect that it is an issue that comes with aging. Canine OA is caused by the deterioration of the joint cartilage, surrounding tissue and fluid. It is often referred to as degenerative joint disease and it is a painful and progressive disease. As OA progresses it can lead to chronic inflammation, swelling and even bone-on-bone contact as the cartilage wears away. However, the thinking that this is strictly caused by age is a myth. In fact, 1 in 5 dogs, over 1 year old, may be affected by OA. Why so young you ask? Genetics. Since OA is genetic and developmental the affects can begin in the first few months of life including the rapid growth stage between the first four to six months. While some of our larger breed dogs are more commonly affected this can occur in any breed and any size. Besides genetics, OA can also develop due to excess body weight, lack of exercise and poor nutrition.

So, how do you know if your dog is affected? Even the most playful dogs can begin to show signs of OA. Some of these signs include:

  • Slower to get up or sit down

  • Takes longer to get comfortable and frequently changes positions

  • Shifts weight from front to back or side to side while standing

  • Shows less interest in play

  • Act restless, anxious or even irritable

  • Hesitate before climbing stairs, walking, sitting or jumping

If your dog begins to show any of these signs it is time to talk to your veterinarian. There is also a website,, where you can take a free quiz about your pet about the signs of OA. Veterinarians rate OA in stages starting at Pre-OA, Mild, Moderate and Severe. Proactive management of OA can be effective in slowing the progression. This can include supplements, exercise, weight management, hydrotherapy, laser therapy, and even pain relief medications. Receiving a diagnosis of OA does not mean your dog can not romp and play and enjoy a high-quality life. It does mean that steps should be taken to aid in slowing the progression of the disease. Normal routine's like going on walks, sitting for a treat, playing with your family, chasing a ball all depends on healthy joints. A very important part of the joint is the cartilage. Cartilage goes through wear and tear normally, as your pet moves, and it does not have blood-vessels, nerves or lymphatics like other tissues do. This means that it does not repair or heal itself like other tissues can. This is why early management is so important. So if you suspect your pet may have OA make sure to talk with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will most likely ask you questions about your pets mobility, perform an orthopedic exam and may want to perform a x-ray and possibly lab work depending on how the exam goes. They can then get your pet on a management plan and back to the fun things in life!

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