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The most common cause of pain: Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most recognized and leading cause of pain in dogs. OA is a progressive non-curable disease that can often start in one joint but progress to many as compensation occurs. The disease process is simple:

  JOINT STRUCTURES DEGENERATE

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RESULTING PAIN CAUSES DECREASED JOINT FUNCTION AND USE

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SURROUNDING MUSCLES, LIGAMENTS AND TENDONS WEAKEN

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BODY COMPENSATES BY SHIFTING BODY WEIGHT AND OVER USE OTHER AREAS = MORE PAIN

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INCREASED BODY AMPLIFICATION OF PAIN = CHRONIC PAIN

"Causes of arthritis in dogs can be broadly divided into developmental or acquired.

Developmental means that they were genetically predisposed to have abnormally formed joints which become apparent as the dog grows.

Certain breeds are more likely to suffer such as labradors and golden retrievers. These joints don’t move smoothly and freely as they were designed to, which results in damage to the structures within the joint. This causes inflammation which eventually leads to signs of arthritis. The resultant developmental abnormality with joint shape can be mild to severe, which can influence the severity of the signs and at what age they appear.

Developmental diseases will happen no matter what you do, but the severity of their end result can be influenced in early life. Dogs that carry too much weight, do too much or not enough exercise, or have to negotiate slippery floors and lots of stairs, will have more severe clinical signs and premature negative outcomes.

Acquired means that they were not born with a likelihood to develop the disease, but circumstances have caused it.

The main causes of acquired arthritis are traumatic injuries to the joint, immune mediated disease targeting the joint, or infections within the joint."


"Osteoarthritis affects 1 in 5 dogs, and its prevalence increases as dogs age; it is therefore very likely your dog has or will get osteoarthritis.

Certain breeds are more predisposed, such as large to medium breeds; and certain lifestyles can promote its development such as hard exercise or long-term obesity. In the majority of cases the owner is not to blame.

Osteoarthritis tends to reveal itself late in its course, because the initial changes are within the joint and therefore not visible, plus because your dog has 4 limbs, they can shift weight, change posture and cope. It is common that owners will not notice changes in their dog’s willingness to exercise, ability to do what they used to do, and changes in the way their dog walks and runs, till they have significant arthritis.

Most owners arrive at the vets saying ’he’s slowing up’ or ‘he’s getting old’; they do not realize this is because their dog is insignificant pain, as they expect them to whimper, yelp, or limp. BUT dogs do not show pain like we do. Some dogs cope so well with the discomfort in one or more joints that the owner is shocked to find they have arthritis. Heartbreaking when finally they can cope no more and start to limp or even struggle to stand and support their own weight.

Diagnosing and therefore treating arthritis relies on the owner noticing changes in their dog’s mobility and posture; the way they walk, run or lie down; their capabilities; the fact they cannot get up the steps without bunny-hopping, or hesitate getting into the car; and behaviour –  that they are less enthusiastic during their routine walks, or they choose to sleep more and become less social.


📷Unusual or different behaviour📷Depression/low mood📷Difficulty getting comfortable📷Pacing at night 📷Physique and muscle changes📷Postural Changes📷Sleeping more than usual📷Weak hind limbs and difficulty going to the toilet 📷Lameness📷Unwilling to walk📷Licking their joints📷Change in temperament

Osteoarthritis will be presented differently by each dog. One dog may limp, another may be less enthusiastic to walk. The signs are wide ranging and can be similar to other diseases such as heart disease, lung disease or even spinal disease. An accurate veterinary diagnosis is essential, so please consult your vet to be sure.


Remember…arthritis causes chronic pain which is an insidious, consistent and often low-intensity pain which can be hard to identify. A good analogy would be dental pain in ourselves, we wouldn’t necessarily look different, but we may eat differently and seem anti-social and distracted.


Humans highlight the presence of chronic pain by talking about it as it often not visible, whereas animals express it behaviourally. Your vet may have to put your dog on pain relief to see if the signs that they were showing were actually pain related." Canine Arthritis Management. 

“MOST CANINE PATIENTS DO NOT VOCALISE FROM THEIR PAIN FROM ARTHRITIS, AND MANY PET OWNERS DO NOT BELIEVE THEIR PET IS IN PAIN IF IT DOES NOT VOCALISE,” ~ Fox and Mills

Information courtesy Canine Arthritis Management caninearthritis.co.uk

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