Most Common Canine Illnesses – Arthritis

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When we are talking illnesses that affect dogs once they reach a certain age, one illness instantly jumps to mind – arthritis. Namely, a relatively large number of dogs suffer from this condition once they get older and there are quite a few factors that contribute to this.

For one, dog’s joints suffer more wear and tear than human ones, for the simple reason that dogs engage in much more physical activity over the course of their lives than their human friends. Quite often, they will run and jump around even when their bodies might not welcome it and all of this repetitive stress can have a harmful effect on joint.

Arthritis is somewhat of an umbrella term which denotes any inflammation of the joint. In order to understand this, we need to understand how joints work. On the ends of bones you will find cartilage – a much smoother type of tissue than bone. Between the cartilage of two neighboring bones is the joint fluid which enables smooth and painless motion of bones. Due to a number of causes, the cartilage can become less smooth and the joint fluid is no longer able to provide enough lubrication.

As a result, the cartilage start to rub together, causing pain, discomfort and inflammation. If the damage to the cartilage becomes too severe and if new bone tissue grows on the end of cartilage (thus limiting motion), we are talking osteoarthritis.

There are two main ways in which arthritis begins in dogs. The first are developmental problems where, due to various underlying causes, the joints do not develop the way they should, leading to arthritis. The other way is through injuries and degenerative processes in the bone, ligaments and joints.

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One of the most important things is to acknowledge your dog is having problems as soon as possible. For instance, you may notice that they are suddenly having troubles with everyday activities such as getting on the couch or going down or up the stairs. You might notice they are having difficulties keeping up with you on your runs or walks. The next stage is limping and lameness.

It should be pointed out that larger dogs are far more likely to develop joint problems such as arthritis and osteoarthritis due to their increased weight and more stress being put on the joints. Dogs that are overweight are also at increased risk. There are also breeds that are more likely to have developmental problems with their joints. For instance, Bernese Mountain dogs commonly suffer from elbow dysplasia while Rottweilers offer suffer from ankle and knee problems.

Once the dog is diagnosed with arthritis, there are a few courses of action that can be taken. One of the easiest ways to mitigate arthritis is to get the dog to its ideal weight and physical shape through diet and exercise. If this is not enough, dogs are often prescribed medications that reduce pain, such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or some more powerful analgesics. Some food supplements can also be introduced in order to promote joint health.

As the last resort, there is always  surgery. There are various surgical procedures that are done in different cases. For instance, in some dogs, the surgeons will clean the affected joints arthroscopically (without cutting the dog open) while in others, they might need to replace entire joints.

In short, make sure your dog eats healthy and exercises regularly. If they start showing any signs of joint problems, take them to the vet at once.

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