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Helping your dog with
Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is not just a joint disease that is reserved for older dogs. It affects more than a third of all dogs, of all ages. That's a lot of dogs! The quicker it's managed the better it is for your dog, enabling them to live their best lives for longer.

Osteoarthritis Overview

OA is the most common form of arthritis and can affect any joint in the body. The cartilage that normally cushions the two bones, that meet to create a nice smooth joint, wears down. The worn down cartilage no longer cushions the two bones effectively enough so the two bones rub against each other causing extra bony growth within the joint. The smooth bones are now roughened, causing pain, inflammation and stiffness. The condition is incurable.

Signs of OA

Signs are vast and varied, but common ones include;

  • Limping

  • Stiffness especially after rest

  • Reduced movement / reluctance to play

  • Slowing down on walks

  • Licking a certain area

  • Difficulty with exercise / stairs / jumping

  • Muscle loss generally or on a single limb

Causes of OA

OA is degenerative and worsens over time. Causes include 'wear and tear', commonly seen in dogs over 8 years old but also associated in younger dogs who;

  • Predisposed by genetics

  • Have a concurrent condition such as hip dysplasia

  • Have injured a joint

  • Excessive ball games or inappropriate activity

  • Obesity

Is OA painful?

Yes. Pain is caused by inflammation and roughening of the joint. If left untreated or unmanaged, pain can escalate quickly and cause what we call 'wind up' pain. Essentially the 'wind up' phenomenon means that your dog experiences normal stimuli (such as touch) as painful. Dogs with wind up pain often resent being touched in certain areas, dislike being groomed or handled and can avoid play.

What can we do about it?

Once diagnosed, OA needs managing to some extent for the rest of the dog's life. We have numerous modalities in clinic that we have at our finger tips to help your dog. These include massage, soft tissue mobilisation, stretching, joint mobilisations, targeted exercises, laser therapy, hydrotherapy... shall we continue? These have all been shown to reduce pain, restore muscle function and strength, and improve your dog's quality of life. With each session they undergo constant review of their clinical signs and progression in order to gain maximum recovery at a pace that's comfortable for them.

 

We will always assess their pain levels, degree of mobility, muscle strength, amongst more, to enable us to create the most successful treatment plan for them.

 

Alongside what we do with your beloved pooch, there are a number of things outside of the clinic that can help them manage their condition or rehabilitation. Please find information in the sections below!  

Home Modifications

Flooring

Wooden floors and stairs are a big slip hazard for your dog. Try using non-slip mats along the main routes of your house. Alternatively, some dogs may benefit from paw pads (please speak to us before trying this option in case of contraindication).

Feeding Stations

Raising their water and food bowls may seem like a insignificant change to us, but it can really help your dog to be a more neutral position.

Access to Furniture

Jumping up and down from heights if often a cause of additional pain for your dog. If they enjoy a cuddle on the sofa or the bed, make it easier for them with dog-friendly steps or ramps onto furniture. This also applies to getting in / out of cars! You may also find a sling to be useful.

Keeping Warm

Especially important in the colder months, your dog will benefit from staying warmer. Keep them in a jumper and walk them out with coats. Stay dry too!

Sleeping / Resting Areas

Great quality sleep is essential. Ensure their sleeping area is free from any drafts and in a warm spot. Their bedding should be supportive and not restrictive. Memory foam mattresses without rigid or tall sides are best. Make sure your dog can access the bed and can change position / stretch out easily.

Be Wary of Terrain

Different types of terrain in the garden and on walks can be hazardous, such as steep slopes, loose or uneven surfaces. Be mindful to where they are going.

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