How to Recognize Signs of Canine Osteoarthritis and Relieve Fear, Anxiety, and Stress

It’s hard for me to believe that my dog, Chilly, is already 10 years old. It’s easy to think he’s as young on the inside as he looks on the outside. I just thought it was old age, which I am sure many pet owners like you have thought. However, a few recent changes in his behavior led me to ask my veterinarian about the possibility of osteoarthritis (OA).

What Is Canine Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, the progressive and permanent long-term deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints, is a common condition in both people and pets.1 In fact, approximately 25 percent of dogs over the age of eight develop OA, according to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.2,3 Unfortunately, more often than not, the first signs of OA in dogs are chalked up to old age and go untreated.4

When to See Your Veterinarian About Osteoarthritis

Think about your dog’s behavior in the past week. If you’ve noticed your dog lagging behind on walks, limping after exercise, or having difficulty jumping, your dog may be suffering from OA. Pain can lead to fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS).5 This canine OA checklist is a valuable resource in helping identify whether your dog may be experiencing OA-related pain and should be seen by your veterinarian.

However, there is good news. Even if your dog is diagnosed with OA, his pain can be managed by working closely with your veterinarian. Similarly, you can work with your veterinarian long before an OA diagnosis to help slow the progression of the disease and ease your dog’s pain.

That’s what I’m doing and here’s how.

When I recently took Chilly to see our veterinarian for an OA screening, Dr. Cole at St. Francis Pet Care Center conducted an orthopedic exam, checking Chilly’s hips, knees, and back. Thankfully, Dr. Cole found no obvious signs of arthritis. Just to be sure, though, he recommended we schedule Chilly for a series of x-rays that will help further determine whether there’s any degeneration in Chilly’s joints.

I also wanted to be proactive about Chilly’s joint health, so I asked what I, or anyone, could do to help slow the progression of canine OA. Dr. Cole recommended three important steps.

How to Slow the Progression of Canine Osteoarthritis

  • Weight Control
    The first and most important step in delaying canine OA is weight control. Obesity is a risk factor for canine OA, since it increases stress on joints, so I make sure Chilly sticks to a healthy diet.
  • Muscle Strengthening with Exercise
    Exercise, the second step, reduces the risk of extra weight while providing added support for the joints, even when there’s already deterioration. Chilly’s fit and active lifestyle keeps his muscles strong and able to support his joints. Additionally, helping Chilly get his daily exercise strengthens my bond with him, and keeps us both healthy and happy.
  • Medications
    Finally, joint supplements and/or pain medications like Rimadyl® (carprofen), prescribed by your veterinarian, can be an effective treatment for dogs with arthritis.6 Supplements and medications can help reduce inflammation in the joints, slowing cartilage degeneration and increasing the quality of life for a dog with arthritis. After all, without pain control, it’s difficult for a dog to enjoy the exercise that will keep him healthy and strong.

By following these three steps, I’m confident that I can help Chilly enjoy many more comfortable and happy years with my family.

Pet parents are the best advocates for their pets, so don’t wait to find out if your dog is suffering. Be sure to fill out this OA checklist today.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: As a class, NSAIDs may be associated with gastrointestinal, kidney and liver side effects. These are usually mild, but may be serious. Pet owners should discontinue therapy and contact their veterinarian immediately if side effects occur. Evaluation for pre-existing conditions and regular monitoring are recommended for pets on any medication, including RIMADYL. Use with other NSAIDs or corticosteroids should be avoided. See full Prescribing Information

References

    1. “Degenerative Joint Disease in Dogs.” PetMD. Accessed March 27, 2020. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/musculoskeletal/c_multi_arthritis_osteoarthritis?page=1.
    2. Mele, Esteban. “Epidemiology of Osteoarthritis (OA).” Veterinary Focus 17, no. 03 (January 2007): 4–10. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.620.7222&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
    3. “Small Animal Topics.” ACVS. Accessed March 27, 2020. https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/osteoarthritis-in-dogs.
    4. “Does Your Dog Limp or Tire Easily?” Zoetis Petcare. Accessed March 27, 2020. https://www.zoetispetcare.com/checklist/osteoarthritis-checklist.
    5. Lindley, Samantha. “The Effects Of Pain On Behaviour And Behavioural Problems Part 2: Fear And Anxiety”. Companion Animal, vol 17, no. 1, 2012, pp. 55-58.
    6. “RIMADYL.” Zoetis Petcare. Accessed March 27, 2020. https://www.zoetispetcare.com/products/rimadyl.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

This article is brought to you in collaboration with our friends at Zoetis Petcare. RIM-00291