Put a spring back into your pet's step. How to identify osteoarthritis.

Oct 10

Heike Mayes

Put a spring back into your pet's step. How to identify osteoarthritis.

by Heike Mayes


Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative disease that may affect any joint.  Commonly it is seen in the hips, elbows, shoulders, knees, wrists, ankles or the spine.  It occurs when cartilage in the joint is damaged, either following a traumatic event or with wear and tear that increases in athletic animals, obese animals, or when the joint is congenitally abnormal.

Cartilage decreases joint stress by reducing impact on the ends of the bones in joints, like a shock absorber.  When cartilage is damaged, a cascade of inflammatory changes occurs, eventually leading to destruction of the smooth protecting cartilage and subsequent damage to the underlying bone. 

If your pet is showing any signs of pain, the damage and changes in underlying bone have already begun.

What to look for:

  • Reluctance to take walks of usual length
  • Stiffness and abnormal gait
  • Difficulty climbing stairs, climbing in the car, on the bed or a sofa
  • Difficulty rising from rest
  • Limping
  • Licking at the site of discomfort
  • Acting withdrawn, spending less time playing, this can sometimes be misinterpreted as a sign of general aging.
  • Soreness when touched.
  • Aggression when touched or approached

Signs can be subtle and easy to miss, knowing how your pet normally acts is key to noticing signs in the future

  • Early treatment is critical to slow progression of arthritis
  • Maintaining lean body weight  is absolutely critical for arthritic patients
  • Exercise to maintain muscle mass is very important to decrease pain
  • Supplements and  NSAIDs are most effective when started early and maintained long term
  • Physical therapy, cold laser treatments and acupuncture can greatly help in all stages of the disease

What can be done?

  • Regular health checkups: Visit us every 6 months to a year. We can help catch signs before they start and manage them once they do.
  • Weight Reduction: Ask us about your pet’s body condition score, which should be normal (5/9) or slightly underweight (4/9).  If your pet is overweight, let’s discuss a weight loss regimen.
  • Controlled Exercise:  Low-impact exercise is best; leash walks, swimming or walking through shallow water is best.
  • Supplements: Glucosamine/chondroitin/msm contain compounds that support cartilage structure, prevent further deterioration, suppress inflammation, and reduce free radical damage. Omega 3,6,9 are powerful anti-oxidants that aid  in joint health.
  • Injectables: Talk to us about injections that may also help preserve cartilage in the joints.
  • Cold Laser: Class IV laser treatments help in relieving pain by blocking receptors, decreases inflammation and helps improve vascular activity.
  • Acupuncture and Massage: Can provide additional non-drug pain control.
  • Prescription Drugs: Drugs are available that can reduce inflammation and suppress pain in dogs with more advanced disease.  Side effects can be minimized by monitoring your dog’s blood work regularly.

Ask one of our skilled veteriary care providers about a treatment option that can cater to your pets need. We have both Everett Veterinary and Seattle Veterinary locations.

Northgate Veterinary Clinic Seattle (206)363-8421

Broadway Animal Hospital Everett (425)252-8266

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