Dr Fetcher logo black

Dr Fetcher


Arthritis in dogs – part 1

You may have many questions, and it’s not always clear what this term means. There are two main types of arthritis. We will cover a little bit on both, but now we will mainly deal with arthritis associated with cartilage wear (osteoarthritis).

What is a joint?

Joints are found in the body of all vertebrates. Very simply, we call the meeting points of the bones in the limbs, at the pelvis, etc. They enable everyday movement: be it an average walk, which is a simple routine task, or even an operation where the doctor performs quite complex movements. So, starting from the simplest movement, they also play a big role in the execution of precise precise movements. In addition, most joints can do this even if they are under load. There is a cartilaginous layer on the ends of the bones, thanks to which the bones can move over each other without friction. Arthritis associated with cartilage wear also occurs in dogs, which is why moving the affected area often results in inflammation and great pain.

Joint comparison

There are 206 bones in the human body, while dogs have 319-321 -> so it is understandable why it is so important to pay attention to the health of our joints and cartilage in our body. In general, 20% of 1-year-old dogs have locomotor problems, while over 8 years of age this number reaches almost 80%! This also shows that, unfortunately, as they age, the chance of developing such problems increases.

Types of arthritis

Basically, we distinguish between two types of joint diseases:

  • Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic joint disease associated with cartilage wear. Both in dogs and humans. In this case, the protective tissue at the end of the bones, called cartilage, thins/wears away, and the bones rub against each other during movement. By definition, this causes great pain, even the dog’s desire to move is lost.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is also associated with pain and inflammation, but it is an autoimmune disease: the body’s own immune system attacks the healthy tissues in the joints

Symptoms of inflammation in dogs

The symptoms are roughly the same in both cases:

  • Stiffness in the limbs
  • Limping
  • Listlessness
  • Weight gain due to lack of exercise
  • Irritability
  • Pain in certain areas when someone touches it
  • It is difficult for him to adopt the correct posture to defecate
  • Loss of muscle in the limbs and back due to lack of movement

The development of arthritis in dogs & risk factors

After a previous injury, the body may not carry out regeneration processes properly. The cartilage layer slowly thins, and thus the dog gradually feels more and more intense pain.

Increased load on the joints can also be a trigger. That is why it is important to maintain a body weight appropriate for the breed, since excess weight also means more pressure on the entire skeleton. Congenital disorders can also be the underlying cause, e.g. elbow or hip dysplasia. In such cases, the joints at the pelvis or elbow develop abnormally, which means long-term problems and pain.

If the dog has moved too much or too little as a puppy, the joints may develop abnormally. The risk is greater with large breeds, as they reach their full body size faster, which can significantly worsen the health of the joints later on.

Continue reading part 2 for tips to prevent joint pain…

Owner with dog in the mountains