Do you have an older dog? Are you noticing changes in him/her? The most important thing that you can know is that aging is not an illness and there are things we can do to help dogs deal with some of the common age associated disorders. Joint issues are often age-associated troubles. Arthritis is a joint problem so extremely common that it gets overlooked and left untreated.
Any living thing with bones and joints can get arthritis. More correctly called osteoarthritis (OA), this painful condition is characterized by irritation of the joints and pain. It is usually diagnosed in middle age to older dogs or even in younger dogs that have sustained an orthopedic injury earlier in life.
It can occur from normal wear and tear on the joints, excessive repetitive motion (like racing Greyhounds) or from an old injury. Active dogs and working dogs are certainly at risk, but any dog can suffer from this common condition. Osteoarthritis is diagnosed by physical exam findings in conjunction with radiographic evidence to attempt to stage severity.
Some of the warning signs include:
1. Stiffness when rising
Dogs suffering from OA may struggle to rise from a laying position or even groan or cry out.
2. Limping on one or more limbs
OA can cause outright limping on one or more limbs. Sometimes it is hard to tell which leg is the one hurting, especially if there is more than one.
3. Flinching or crying out when lifted
Any pain in the cervical (neck) region is specifically painful (ever had a crick in your neck? Ouch!) so these dogs might even cry out when they look up or are lifted.
4. Not wanting to jump up or climb down
Resisting climbing up stairs or furniture can mean pain in the rear legs that support the weight when climbing, whereas a reluctance to jump down from furniture or climb down stairs can be an indicator of forelimb pain, since the weight will shift onto the front as they descend. Some dogs have pain in all the limbs +/- neck and back.
Some of these changes could easily be confused with other causes, so it is important that you see your veterinarian if you think that your dog is exhibiting these signs. Please let your vet help. No dog should suffer when there are things that can help.
There are other less common joint issues and only your vet can know the difference. While it is true that osteoarthritis is incurable, it does not mean that we are powerless against it; the symptoms can be managed and reduced. Seek help and make sure that your dog’s golden years are truly the best time of his life.
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