It’s senior focus month and I think the topic of Osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease), should be discussed since, although it can affect any breed of dog, senior dogs are at a higher risk. This is a progressive and permanent deterioration of the cartilage that surrounds their joints- causing a chronic inflammation.
As your animal ages, it is important to remember they age at a much quicker rate than humans do. Our 1 year is equivalent to 4 years of age for them! For that reason, it is recommended that dogs go to the Vet for annual exams (some even every 6 months) to stay on top of their health. Close attention is paid to the dog’s mobility since joint health can start to diminish as our furry companions get older, and Osteoarthritis is more likely to develop. It is most commonly seen in older and larger breeds but can even be seen in small breed dogs.
Some things you would notice if your senior loved one is developing or experiencing Osteoarthritis includes a decreased level of activity compared to normal, lameness or if they are walking stiffly (especially worsening with exercise, cold weather or even being inactive for a long period of time).
It is best to discover this disease at an early onset and treat accordingly to improve quality of life with supplements that promote joint health (like Glucosamine, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Flexadin chews), while maintaining regular moderate exercise, and the use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) in order to control the pain/discomfort associated with Osteoarthritis. Regular exercise plays a significant role as they age because it keeps them active, which means less of a chance to put on weight! When a senior dog becomes less active, they are more inclined to gain weight putting added stress on their joints. Some dogs experiencing Osteoarthritis can benefit from household modifications, such as a raised food/water bowls, soft/plush blankets or beds, a ramp instead of having stairs to climb, or grip flooring laid out for traction while walking.
So, to make sure your senior friend is comfortable at home, annual visits to the Vet are ideal for monitoring any significant changes going on, especially with mobility and how they are getting around! Modifying your home, keeping them active and not overweight, while offering supplements to promote joint health are all recommended to support this disease.
1. Bassert, J. and Thomas, J. 2014. McCurnin’s- Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians- 8th Edition.
2. Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)- PetMD website. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/musculoskeletal/c_multi_arthritis_osteoarthritis