Arthritis (osteoarthritis - OA) is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs. It affects 4 out of 5 older dogs. It is a disabling, non-curable, and progressive disease which initially focuses on moving joints but eventually affects the whole dog and is a major cause of euthanasia due to loss of quality of life.
It is an extremely complex disease that requires a dedicated owner collaborating well with their vet to control the pain, maximise the mobility and ensure a full and active life for their dog.
In basic terms, the progression of osteoarthritis can be summarised like this:
It is not to be confused with immune mediated arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, which is where the body’s immune system attacks its own joints, or with septic arthritis, which is when there is an infection within the joint, although both of these conditions do ultimately lead to osteoarthritis.
It is a disease familiar in many other species, including humans; they have even found evidence of it in the bones of dinosaurs. UK charity Arthritis Research UK suggests that more than ten million people in Britain have painful arthritis, with one in five adults between 50 and 59 years old suffering. Often considered a disease of the elderly, its prevalence does increases with age, however it can affect dogs as young as one year old.
The truth is that arthritis is still not fully understood, which is surprising considering it is a very familiar condition that will affect most of us at some points in our lives. Vast amounts of money are invested in research in the hope we can find better ways to detect it earlier, slow its progression and alleviate the pain it causes.
Have you noticed that your dog’s energy levels are decreased; their enthusiasm to exercise is reduced, or their normal habits of stretching, shaking and rolling have become infrequent, replaced with something new such as licking their front paws? Or maybe they just seem to want to be left alone more of the time. Contact your vet as they may have arthritis.