What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most frequent type of arthritis affecting dogs, occurring in about 25 per cent of them. It’s a chronic condition that leads to the degeneration of the synovial joints (that is, common joints including hips and knees) and is irreversible. It happens when the cartilage within the joint starts to degenerate. This cartilage acts as a slippery cushion to allow the joint to move smoothly through its full range of motion, so when this starts to break down, due to things like age, injury, repetitive stress or disease, it can cause a number of issues. Dogs with OA will experience a progressive loss of cartilage surrounding their joints, leading to pain, difficulty moving and stiffness. It is most common in older pets, as, just like ours, their joints deteriorate with age, but it can also be caused by injury in younger dogs. Other causes include hip dysplasia, which is a deformity of the hip joints, often caused by bad breeding, or the under-development of joints, caused by too little or too much exercise during puppyhood. In extreme cases, excess weight can also lead to pressure on the joints and cartilage problems.
How will I recognise Osteoarthritis in my dog?
The key thing to note is that arthritis is a progressive disease with symptoms that gradually develop and worsen over time. So, unlike an injury, you’re unlikely to be able to pinpoint the exact moment your dog starts to exhibit symptoms. That being said, the first thing you’re likely to notice is your dog just generally starting to slow down, whether that’s on walks or simply getting up the stairs or onto chairs. Some other symptoms that you may notice include:
- limping or lameness
- a stiff gait, which is likely to be worse after exercise and when waking up
- grumbling or reluctance when laying down or getting up
- wary of the affected joints being touched
- loss of muscle in the affected area
- licking or chewing on areas that may be painful
If you start to notice any of these symptoms, give us a call on 01325 802738 or fill out our online form to see what one of veterinary physios thinks and how they may be able to help your dog get their quality of life back.
Treating osteoarthritis in my dog
While it’s important to remember that OA is incurable and degenerative (we don’t want to give false hope) there are plenty of ways to mitigate against its effects and ensure your dog lives a fulfilling, active life and enjoying things they used to do.
Treatment options include:
Physio helps OA in a number of ways, used targeted exercises to manage a particular trouble spot. The exercises will ultimately help to improve the joint range of movement, build a particular muscle group, reduce pain and inflammation, prevent any secondary complications and enhance or maintain function. We also have a number of tools available to us like Laser, pulse magnetic field therapy, and massage to name just a few. Our veterinary physiotherapists will meet you and your pet, discuss your concerns and aims for your dog then conduct a thorough examination of your dog’s movement and posture. They can then carefully design a tailored plan to help target your dog’s individual needs and get them back on their paws.
This will include exercises for you to do at home and advice on other ways to help.
LASER Therapy for dogs
Our veterinary physiotherapists can carry out LASER therapy on your furry friend, using light at different frequencies, wavelengths and powers to optimise the body’s natural healing process. The light energy passes through the skin and then into the cells, initiating a process called photobiostimulation – similar to the photosynthesis process in plants. As well as optimising the body’s natural regeneration process, it also encourages the body to release endorphins and collagen, and improves blood circulation, which in turn increase mobility and reduce pain and swelling.
Pulse Magnetic Therapy for dogs
Pulse Mag is another kind of therapy that uses a form of electrotherapy.
In this case, pulsed electromagnetic fields are used at different frequencies, due to the fact that the cells in our bodies all have different electrical charges that change when cells are damaged. Pulse Mag therapy returns the damaged cells to their ‘healthy’ electrical charge, optimising ‘normal’ cellular processes and achieving an improved rate of healing bone, nerves and soft tissues as well as providing pain relief.
Hydrotherapy for dogs
Swimming is a great exercise for people with arthritis, and the same is true for dogs. We are very lucky at BARC to be able to offer both a hydrotherapy pool and two underwater treadmills, providing a warm, safe environment for your pet’s rehab. The warmth of the pool is soothing for achy, arthritic joints and can help relax tight muscles, which helps relieve pain. The water creates buoyancy which provides support, so it makes it easier for your dog to exercise and create normal movement patterns. On top of this, whilst exercising in the water, your dog is moving against the resistance, which helps build muscle, which is likely to have been lost if arthritis pain has curtailed their usual exercise level. The water also provides a hydrostatic pressure, so when your dog is submerged in the water this will help reduce swelling, therefore allowing for even more movement at the same time as reducing pain.