Many people assume arthritis is a condition for older, large breed dogs, however dogs of any age, size and breed can be affected by arthritic joints especially if they have sustained an injury during their growth period. Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease is a breakdown in the smooth cartilage that protects the ends of the bones in a joint. Once the cartilage has worn-out, and the bones are no longer protected, pain and inflammation of the joint occurs and movement of the joint becomes limited and painful.
This condition can be debilitating, especially if dog owners fail to diagnose and manage the symptoms. Early detection and management of your dog’s arthritis can slow progression and restore function of their joints. If your dog has arthritis, you will notice changes in her movement and behavior. Signs to watch for include: walking stiffly, lameness with gait or favoring certain limbs, stiffness or discomfort when rising from a sitting or lying-down position, swollen and sore joints, pain when touched in certain areas, abnormal postures or finding certain postures uncomfortable or painful, loss of flexibility in joints, resistance to running, jumping or climbing, onset of tiredness or irritability, muscle atrophy, as well as licking, chewing or biting in certain areas.
A Canine Rehabilitation Therapist will be able to provide an accurate diagnosis for canine osteoarthritis by performing a detailed assessment of your dog. Based on this assessment, a treatment plan will be developed for your dog’s individual needs. Your Rehab Therapist can use modalities, such as laser therapy, acupuncture, ultrasound, heat and ice to help relieve pain and inflammation in the joints. Hands-on mobilization (specific technique to improve movement) of the joint can be used to reduce stiffness, relieve pain, and increase movement. This will be combined with a specific exercise program including stretching exercises to increase range of motion, and strengthening exercises to strengthen muscles surrounding the joints. Exercises are fundamental to a successful treatment of osteoarthritis by keeping muscles strong and functioning properly in order to help protect and support the joints. Furthermore, as joints become arthritic, they lose their balance receptors or proprioceptors. Balance and strength training will help improve stability around joints. A Canine Rehabilitation Therapist also plays a key role in educating dog owners on how they can modify elements in their dog’s environment and daily activities to improve their dog’s function, decrease pain and protect their joints.
Although degeneration of the joints is part of the natural aging process, preventative measures can be taken to keep your dog’s joints functioning properly for as long as possible. Feeding your dog a healthy diet and providing her with appropriate exercise will help to decrease her chances of developing osteoarthritis by helping her maintain a healthy weight, and therefore decreasing the amount of stress on her joints. Regular exercise helps to keep muscles strong, which in turn protects joints from wear and tear.
Although arthritis is not considered curable, implementing the proper management techniques with the help of a Canine Rehabilitation Therapist can slow the progression of breakdown within the joints. A Canine Rehabilitation Therapist will help you diagnose arthritic pain in your dog, help protect their joints from damage caused by wear and tear, and maintain your dog’s mobility and minimize discomfort.