Degenerative joint disease, (osteoarthritis), is a very common disease in dogs. It affects one in every five adult dogs in the U S and is one of the most common causes of chronic pain treated by veterinarians.

Osteoarthritis is characterized by the loss of the smooth cartilage that covers and protects the end of the bones in a moveable joint. Since cartilage does not contain nerves, there is no pain when it touches the cartilage of another bone. However, when this cartilage wears away, usually from normal wear and tear, the bone is exposed. Because the bone does contain nerves, pain and inflammation result when the two bone ends in a joint touch each other. In degenerative joint disease, small bone projections (osteophytes) form on the bone that is close to the joint, adding to the degree of pain.

Dogs have a 65% chance of developing arthritis between 7 and 11 years of age. Since it is impossible to stop the natural aging process, it is important for pet owners to be aware of ways they can help prevent the onset of this disease in their dog.

Being sensitive to your pet’s health condition is very important to his well being. Regular check-ups by a veterinarian are vital for maintaining the over-all good health of your pet. And remember, young dogs can also acquire degenerative joint disease.

Common causes of arthritis in dogs:

Age:
As your dog ages, normal wear and tear gradually wears away the cartilage that protects the bones of the joints. Keeping your dog active is one of the best things you can do to help prevent arthritis from developing early in his life and to help reduce the severity of the disease in later life.

Improper Nutrition:
An imbalanced diet in minerals and a diet that does not contain the correct type and amount of protein, increases your dog’s chances of acquiring arthritis. Consult your veterinarian on which dog food is right for your pet.

Injuries:
If the ligaments of the joints get jagged due to physical injuries or accidents, the chances for developing arthritis are quite high. Never ignore an injury to your pet or try to let the condition heal naturally. Pay a visit to your veterinarian to have your pet’s condition properly diagnosed and treated.

Hip Dysplasia:
This disease is characterized by pain around the joints and lameness. It is believed to be genetic, although it can also be caused by certain environmental factors as well.  If your dog is diagnosed with this disease, work closely with your veterinarian in order to find the right treatment for your pet.

Obesity:
Dogs, just like humans, can become overweight and obesity can contribute to the development of arthritis. Keep your pet active. Encourage him to play around the house and take him out regularly for walks. You should also consult with your veterinarian on the proper type and quantity of food your pet needs.

Common signs of arthritis in dogs:

1. Difficulty sitting or standing

2. Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs

3. Decreased activity/less interest in play

4. Being less alert

5. Sleeping more than usual

6. Favoring a limb

7. Attitude or behavior change

8. Seems to have sore or stiff joints

9. Weight gain

Since your dog is unable to speak and tell you where and if he hurts, it is your responsibility to be observant of your dog’s behavior. If any of the above listed signs are present in your pet, you should make an appointment to have your dog examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Remember, the earlier arthritis is diagnosed and treatment begun, the better for the well being and health of your pet!