Bones & Joints

Canine Joint Disease Basics

Here are some canine joint disease basics that you should be familiar with so you can recognize potential problems your dog may start developing. There are several things that can cause your dog to start showing possible joint problems, and if they continue, you should consult a veterinarian — don’t try to treat this type of problem yourself until you have a definite diagnosis from a vet, and know what to treat. You can intelligently discuss the dog’s problems with your vet if you know at least some of these canine joint disease basics.

Many dogs nowadays experience various joint pains and arthritis, and one of them is canine joint disease. Nearly ten million dogs today experience pain and suffering from osteoarthritis and many other dogs like them are at risk of ending up with the same disease. But what exactly is this disease and how does it manifest in your dog?

Also known as degenerative joint disease, it is caused by the loss of cartilage that protects the bone ends in movable joints. Cartilage is not supported by many nerves, so one does not feel any pain from normally moving joints. However, if the cartilage is lost over time, it causes the bones to be exposed, rub against each other, and cause inflammation and/or severe pain.

Along with many other bone and joint diseases, canine joint disease and arthritis are often caused by old age and simple wear and tear, just as in humans. As the dog ages, their bones and cartilages also wear out, even faster if they did not have the right amount of calcium in their diets while they were still young.

The single largest cause of canine joint disease is hip dysplasia. There is nothing you can do to prevent this — it is a genetic defect that causes a (usually) slight deformation of one side or the other (sometimes both) of the hip bones. Over time, the uneven wear causes the disease to develop. It is more common in the larger breeds than the smaller.

So what are the symptoms of canine joint disease? The following are the most common ones, although it somewhat varies depending on the dog’s age, the severity of the joint disease, or which joints are affected:

  • Weakening of muscles. Also, the muscle size of the affected area or limb decreases in size, usually because it is not always used.
  • The dog experiences an altered gait. Because one area or limb is affected, he desperately tries to put more weight onto the other limb, leaving an unbalanced state.
  • Difficulty in jumping and getting up, which is almost the same as when older humans experience arthritis. Going up and down the stairs can be painful for them as well.
  • Biting and licking of the affected area, which most dogs will do. Some try to find warm spots to rest on, since the warmth is soothing.
  • Behavior and appetite also changes for the dog. This depends the severity of the pain.

There are things that will cause temporary problems, such as strains or overexertion. But, these usually go away over time, and if you observe closely, you will see that it is improving.

When the symptoms start to occur in your dog and don’t soon go away, get him to your vet. Canine joint disease is diagnosed by means of a physical examination of the dog and knowing its medical history. Laboratory tests, further examination, and x-rays of the affected area or joint may be part of the follow through.

There are usually two ways to treat joint diseases in dogs: medically and surgically, although some types only respond to surgical procedures. One such instances is a hip replacement for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia. Many other medical procedures can be done.

Because it is a disease that worsens over time, it should be taken seriously. Early intervention and immediate action go a long way. Good medication and the right amount of care for your dog can help him restore his health and keep him in shape and comfortable despite his age.

Keep these canine joint disease basics in mind when you notice your dog starting to limp or develop other joint symptoms, so you can take the best action for your pet.

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