Arthritis in dogs

Does your dog have arthritis? What is arthritis and what causes it in dogs?

Two of the most commonly seen joint conditions today are Hip dysplasia and Osteoarthritis(OA). Dogs are genetically predisposed to these conditions and they can come on pretty early in their lives. There isn't a definitive "cure" as such for them and are both considered progressive in nature.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia used to be commonly known as a large or giant breed condition. But the fact today is that it can and does affect dogs of any breed and size. Hip dysplasia is a skeletal condition that has a genetic predisposition. Having said that, it is a polygenic trait that is highly affected by environmental factors. This means that although you might have the gene that makes you more likely to have a particular condition, your environment has to contribute towards making that gene “express” itself, thus giving you the condition.

A simple example is, I am genetically predisposed to have type 2 diabetes. Both sets of my grandparents had it, my father has it and so do all his brothers. However, a bad lifestyle and eating habits is going to be the trigger that gives me type 2 diabetes. If my lifestyle and eating habits are on point, I could avoid it or the severity of it, for a long time. This is a very simplistic view of the topic, but it explains the point.

Going back to hip dysplasia and what it is, requires some explanation of anatomy of the hip joint.

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The ball sits snugly inside the socket, surrounded by cartilage and joint fluid. Allowing for a smooth ‘glide and slide’ movement. The hip joint is actually very versatile, and moves in a variety of directions, thus making it an important joint.

In dogs with hip dysplasia, the joint either does not develop properly, or it moves out of place and does not “fit” properly anymore. Instead of being a snug fit, it is loose or partial fit. Over time, the cartilage and joint fluid deteriorates due to the mis-angled gliding of the joint. This can cause considerable inflammation, lameness and chronic pain, affecting the dog’s quality of life.

In India, Hip dysplasia is very prevalent in Labrador retrievers, Beagles Golden retrievers and German shepherds.

What is Osteoarthritis in dogs?

The ball and socket are not smooth anymore, and the cartilage and joint fluid is destroyed.

Osteoarthritis, commonly known as just arthritis, is also known as Degenerative joint disease (DJD). This is because it is a progressive, degenerative condition that involves a long term deterioration of the cartilage around the joint. It is disabling for dogs and is non-curable. As many as 1 in 4 dogs over the age of 1 have an early onset of OA and as many as 4 in 5 older dogs will have OA. Puppies with Hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia (which is very similar to the hip condition) will show early onset of Arthritis or DJD. The important thing to remember is, pain will start much much before the x-ray will show you the deformity. So it is important to read up on the early signs of pain. Read more.

How to manage joint conditions in dogs?

Like all progressive and degenerative conditions, we, as pet families, have to be equipped to manage these and prevent further damage to the affected joints. There are several environmental and lifestyle related changes that can be implemented to help our dogs cope with the condition that we cover during our consultations with the families.

Simple cost effective and easy to implement strategies that help the joints prevent damage on a daily basis. Some of them involve providing the dogs with good non slip surfaces at home, so that they are not constantly slipping on our super slippery floorings and causing micro injuries to already tender & painful joints. The pain from arthritis (even at early stages) can be quite excruciating. And to make matters worse, the pain will start up to a year BEFORE it shows up on the X-ray. So watch out for the more subtle signs of pain that can be very easy to miss.