Arthritis is a health condition that can affect both dogs, humans and other animals too, and one that most of us have heard of and often, know someone affected by as well.
Arthritis is generally a condition that we tend to associate with aging, appearing most commonly in older dogs and people, rather than in youngsters. However, whilst arthritis does affect elderly people and dogs more often than puppies and young people, it can also develop less commonly in young dogs and even puppies too.
If a puppy or younger dog displays symptoms of arthritis, this does not necessarily mean that this is the root cause, and there are a number of other canine health conditions that can result in similar symptoms as well. Your vet will need to rule out other potential causes on their way to making a formal diagnosis, but younger dogs and puppies can and sometimes do develop arthritis, which not all dog owners are aware of.
In this article we will look at arthritis in younger dogs and puppies, and explain why a young dog might develop arthritis, the symptoms it can cause, and the treatment and management options available for the condition in younger dogs.
Read on to learn more about arthritis in puppies and younger dogs.
Arthritis is a degenerative condition of the bones and joints, which develops due to a breakdown of the protective cartilage that forms the dog’s joints and allow a normal range of movement without rubbing or grinding. When the cartilage breaks down, the affected bones and the joints rub together and cause pain and inflammation in the localised area affected.
Arthritis usually develops in older dogs because the level of wear and tear required to cause arthritis in an older dog with healthy bones and joints and a normal conformation takes a long time to develop, after many years of normal wear and tear.
This is why arthritis rarely presents in puppies and younger dogs.
When arthritis develops in a puppy or young dog, it does so because of the same root cause as arthritis in older dogs – wear and damage to the bones and joints. However, for such damage to occur quickly enough to result in arthritis at a young age, it almost always happens as a result of another underlying deformity or problem with the dog’s conformation, most commonly different types of dysplasia like hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.
Hip and/or elbow dysplasia are congenital conditions that are caused by hereditary deformities of the joints themselves, because the ball and socket joints are poorly aligned and rub together or don’t fit snugly together. Either of these conditions can result in arthritis at a young age.
Osteochondrosis is another health condition that can cause arthritis in puppies and young dogs, and this condition causes the dog’s long bones to grow at an accelerated rate, leading to tearing and damage to the cartilage in the elbows, shoulders or hips. This is more likely to occur in large and giant dog breeds.
An accident or damage to the bones or joints at a young age, or rupturing or tearing of the ligaments can also result in early onset arthritis in dogs, as can certain infectious and inflammatory health conditions, immune disorders, and poor nutrition.
Lyme disease, a condition that can be passed on by a tick bite, can also cause damage and arthritis in younger dogs too, but this is very rare.
Even if a dog is displaying clear arthritis-like symptoms, reaching a formal diagnosis of arthritis in a younger dog or puppy is not always simple. Your vet will need to take into account any other underlying health conditions or conformation defects that may have contributed to the condition developing, as well as their size, other risk factors, and any other health conditions that may play a part.
The physical symptoms of arthritis in puppies and younger dogs are the same as those displayed by older animals, and may include stiffness, a shortened, stiff gait, problems getting up and down, reluctance to exercise, and pain and discomfort. Heat or inflammation in the joints are often present too, and many dogs will be reluctant to allow you to examine them due to the pain.
There is no cure for arthritis in dogs of any age, and the condition cannot be reversed or fully corrected. Treating arthritis in puppies or young dogs relies upon treating the dog’s symptoms to ease pain, restore movement, and allow the dog to lead a reasonable quality of life.
This means that a puppy or young dog that has arthritis will need special care and management for the remainder of their lives, and the condition may worsen over time.
Keeping your dog at a healthy weight with the right diet and appropriate low-impact exercise eases the pain and pressure on the dog’s joints, and helps to prevent the condition from worsening.
If an underlying issue like hip or elbow dysplasia caused arthritis to develop, this needs to be corrected too in order to prevent further damage and more acute symptoms.
Treating and managing arthritis in dogs usually relies upon a combination of physical therapies like massage, hydrotherapy and appropriate exercise, and potentially, painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications to help with bad days and flare-ups.
You may also need to make changes to your dog’s home and lifestyle to enable them to move around freely and without pain, such as using ramps for stairs, elevating your dog’s food and water bowls, and potentially, providing a higher bed to make it easier for them to get up and down.
Your vet will help you with keeping your dog comfortable and managing their condition, and you will need to schedule regular check-ups and reviews of your dog’s treatment protocols for the duration of their life.