Dogs can get arthritis in their joints just like people. Veterinarians refer to this as canine osteoarthritis, or often just as OA. This condition is very common. In fact, roughly 25% of all adultdogs in the US have OA, or about 1 in 4. Although there is no cure for this progressive condition, identifying the problem early and initiating appropriate management can help keep your dog happy and active into his or her senior years.

This is important because as OA progresses, it results in a vicious cycle of inflammation that causes the cartilage in the joint to deteriorate. Normally, cartilage serves as a cushion that allows the joint to move smoothly. But, due to the cartilage loss that occurs in OA, the joint bones rub against each other when your dog moves, resulting in pain. This pain can significantly affect your dog’s quality of life, causing a range of signs and symptoms.

Any dog can begin to show the signs of OA, particularly as they get older. However, there are some things you should be aware of that can predispose even young dogs to developing this condition. These include:

• Breed of dog: OA most commonly effects large to giant breed dogs, like Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers; however, any breed can be effected

• Physical factors: Advancing age; obesity, which increases strain on the joints, leading to inflammation and damage; poor nutrition; and genetics

• Injuries: Repetitive stress from high intensity athletic activities such as agility training, diving, flyball, and the like; fractures or tears in ligaments; hip or elbow dysplasia; and infections that affect the joints, such as Lyme Disease

• Developmental disease: Hip or elbow dysplasia

The signs of OA can be difficult to spot in the early stages. Symptoms may not be really noticeable until your dog’s affected joint is already damaged. And, because most dogs are very good at hiding their pain until it becomes severe, it’s important to be on the lookout for early signs of OA in dogs, especially those that are predisposed to developing the disease, such as those mentioned above.

Some of the first signs of OA you might notice are that your dog seems less enthusiastic when it comes to activity, such as lagging behind on walks or moving differently when running, jumping, or playing. Some other signs of OA in dogs include:

• Changes in Mobility: Difficulty going up and down stairs; struggling to get up after lying down; trouble walking on slick floors; being unable to easily hop in and out of vehicles; difficulty jumping on and off furniture; and limping or favoring one of his or her legs

• Behavioral changes: Wincing when touched; seeming fatigued or withdrawn; whimpering or yelping in pain; acting unusually irritable or aggressive; lack of enthusiasm for walks or playtime; and having difficulty when squatting to toilet

It’s important to keep up with regular visits to your veterinarian. Because OA is a progressive condition, identifying the problem early and working with your veterinarian on an appropriate management plan can help keep your dog living a happy, active life. This will enable your veterinarian  to properly diagnose and begin a plan to address the disease before it becomes more serious and debilitating.

To diagnose OA, your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination and assess your dog’s joints and range of motion. He or she may also recommend X-rays that can help in evaluating the degree of damage to the joint, or other diagnostic imaging tools, such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scans.

Treatment for OA includes different approaches that your veterinarian will discuss with you. Weight control is a critical aspect of managing your dog’s OA. Another is trading high-impact activities for lower impact, consistent exercise. This can help maintain the muscles around the joints and keep your dog active, while putting less stress on the joints. Your veterinarian may also discuss rehabilitation, physical therapy, pain control medicines, surgery, and other options to determine what is the right approach for you and your family.

Synovetin OA® is one of the newer options available to treat canine elbow OA. It’s a completely different way to relieve the arthritis pain that causes limping and lameness in dogs. And it’s one that doesn’t require you to give daily pills or chews and doesn’t involve surgery and the corresponding recovery. With Synovetin OA, all it takes is a single, simple procedure that provides up to 1 full year of relief to get your dog back to doing all the things you love to do together. Read about these Synovetin OA success stories.