what if i do nothing?
The disease process begins in one or more joints, but the effects are soon felt elsewhere in the body, as the dog shifts their weight away from the painful joint(s) onto other limbs. Over time the structures that would normally support the affected joint (e.g. the muscles, tendons and ligaments) become dysfunctional and weak through lack of use. In simple terms ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’. The pain associated with joint use becomes persistent due to ‘central sensitisation’ and the dog is likely to experience more pain from everyday activities, even a gentle stroke. Other regions of the body also become painful due to injuries from overuse as a result of compensatory weight shifting away from the painful and weak limbs affected by arthritis.
Dogs, like humans, have different tolerance levels of disease and pain. Some dogs manage well with significant arthritic changes, whereas other dogs suffer terribly with what may be considered mild disease. Treating arthritis should always be dictated by the severity that the patient suggests. It is not appropriate to treat what the radiographs or physical changes suggest. Instead, the dog’s perception of pain should drive the management plan.
For many dogs, even those that initially coped with the disease very well, the challenge of living with arthritic joints eventually becomes all consuming, and their quality of life will wane. Managing pain and reduced function from not only the primary location, but also the overworked areas that have been compensating for the affected limb(s), will challenge their coping strategies.
Over time the dog’s limb(s) will weaken and the pain will increase. Eventually owners witness their dog not willing to stand up, not willing to walk, and not able to interact. At this stage the dog’s quality of life will be considered poor and the decision to humanely euthanise will need to be made.
By intervening as early as possible, this process can be slowed down. The pain can be eased, and the dog’s mobility, quality of life, and bond with their human companion can be maintained.
Early identification and action are the keys to successful osteoarthritis management. If you would like information on how to manage your dog’s condition, subscribe to our FREE Owner Guide to Managing Arthritis email series.
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Follow our practical and easy advice to help make life much more comfortable for your canine friend.
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