Pet Insurance

Canine Arthritis

We are becoming more involved in our dogs' lives than ever before. Where many of our grandparents -- perhaps even our parents -- had a dog in the yard that might have come indoors as a special treat, or when the weather was worse than usual, or if there was a thunderstorm that terrified the dog, now we live with our dogs, side by side on the sofa or bed. Our grandparents probably did love their dogs in their own way, and many took good care of them, making certain the dogs had decent veterinary care, good food and adequate affection and interaction, but we are becoming more intrinsically linked with the lives of our dogs than was usual in past generations.

And we are devastated when our dogs are in pain. Arthritis is a debilitating disease that can be excruciating if not controlled and there are so many different kinds, attacking various regions of the body, manifesting at an early age or laying in wait for the senior years. Some forms are a genetic time bomb while others are the result of wear and tear on body parts that perhaps weren't adequately shaped or developed to handle it. Sometimes it's simply a cruel mystery.

Dysplasias are one of the genetic time bombs, originating in malformed joints. Large breeds are particularly susceptible to dysplasia, and it often manifests at a tragically early age. All dysplasias are characterized by a malformation of the joint, usually the hip, elbow or knee. The malformation causes chips of bone to break off or calcium “spurs” to form, or both. Inflammation results, muscle pain develops, and often surrounding tissues begin to break down. Sadly, although dysplasia has ever been associated with large breeds, poor breeding practices, the greed of puppy mills and backyard breeders who indiscriminately breed dogs with “papers” and no health checks to ascertain soundness in order to finance vacations, Christmases, maybe even just keeping everyone fed, are contributing to rising occurrences of dysplasias in medium and even toy breeds where it was once a rarity.

Osteochondrosis is another form of arthritis most often caused by poor genetics and passed on by unethical breeding practices. It can be exacerbated, or sometimes even caused, by poor nutrition, however, and it appears that a diet too high in calcium can be a contributory factor. Large breed puppy owners are also cautioned about encouraging or allowing their young dogs to engage in too much jumping play or running or even walking significant distances on hard surfaces, like concrete or asphalt. Anything that causes cartilage to pull away from the bone can cause lesions which can lead to the condition.

It is a condition that can range from being extremely painful to mildly uncomfortable and can manifest at a very early age, sometimes as young as four months. It is usually not limited to one set of joints, but is present in several areas. At present, it is still a disease of large breeds, with Labrador Retrievers being the most commonly affected.

Osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease both involve the breakdown of joint tissues, usually connective fibers like cartilage and ligaments. When this happens, bone begins to rub on bone, causing more tissue breakdown and painful movement. There may or may not be any inflammation, but there will be pain. There are several potential causal factors in these types of arthritis. Either can be traumatic in origin, caused by the wear and tear of chronic obesity, genetic predisposition combined with trauma, obesity, poor diet, or any combination. Sometimes it's just the bad luck of the draw in aging for an animal since this is an arthritic condition that typically shows up in dogs as they begin to show signs of advancing age.

There are new treatments surfacing for these conditions regularly in conventional veterinary medicine and in alternative veterinary health methods. It's up to you to watch for signs and be sensitive to your dog's well being, then decide what avenues to pursue to ensure your dog's comfort. Arthritis is a condition that can be tragic and painful, but it doesn't necessarily have to be, and the odds are moving in our favor more and more with each passing day.

Researched and written by Victoria, editor for, find information on elevated dog feeders and dog bark collars.

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