Osteoarthritis ("Arthrosis") is one of the most common joint diseases and occurs in animals of all ages and breeds. It is a disease process that is a result of an excessive wear and tear of the joint. This process starts with damage to the cartilage and later also leads to changes in the bone, joint capsule and surrounding soft tissue. Although Osteoarthritis is classified as non-inflammatory according to the textbooks, it is always associated with a mild permanent inflammation.
In principle, Osteoarthritis is divided into two forms, the primary and the secondary. Primary Osteoarthritis usually occurs at an advanced age and its cause is largely unknown. Secondary Osteoarthritis on the other hand, is the result of an underlying disease of the joint. These include diseases that lead to unequal load distribution (e.g. joint dysplasia), cause instability (e.g. anterior cruciate ligament rupture), trigger inflammation (e.g. infections) or result in undue strain (e.g. overweight).
As a consequence of the above-mentioned causes, primary the joint cartilage becomes damaged. This results, among other things, in the release of pieces of cartilage, which can trigger an inflammatory reaction of the synovial fluid and thus set off a vicious circle. Due to the inflammation, there is a breakdown of cartilage tissue and consequently a progressive destruction of the articular cartilage. However, Osteoarthritis also leads to changes in all other joint structures. New bony protrusions form and the joint capsule becomes increasingly hardened. The changes associated with osteoarthritis lead to pain, joint swelling, reduced mobility and increasing lameness.
Osteoarthritis per se is not curable, but one can try to stop or at least slow down the disease process. In the case of secondary Osteoarthritis, the cause should be treated if possible. However, often the underlying disease is not completely curable and even if so, the existing changes often still continue to cause the animals difficulties. For this reason, one of the main goals in both forms of Osteoarthritis is to maintain the quality of life as high as possible and to delay the further progression of the disease by supportive measures.
Some of the possible supportive measures are:
Depending on the severity of the disease, different medications can be advisable. Which and in which dosage, must be decided by the veterinarian depending on the case.
A lot of dogs with osteoarthritis are overweight. In these animals, a reduction in body weight can help reduce the strain on the joints.
Overstrains such as sports, jumps and sudden changes of direction should be avoided, as they put a heavy strain on the joints. Instead, an exercise program with low strain (e.g. swimming) should be chosen.
Regular passive and active exercises can promote mobility and strengthen the muscles. For this purpose it is recommended to consult a well-trained animal physiotherapist.