Arthritis is a common degenerative joint disease. Basically, it’s the result of cartilage around a joint wearing down and thinning with activity and age. In severely arthritic dogs, the affected joint may completely detach from the bone. Arthritis can result in inflammation of the affected area, exacerbating symptoms and further degenerating the joint.
The most common- and preventable- cause of arthritis in dogs is obesity. Extra weight means extra strain on the dog’s joints, so keep an eye on your pup’s food intake and exercise! Old age increases the likelihood of arthritis, as well, with most dogs in a UK sample contracting the disease at around eight years old. The likelihood of developing arthritis increased if the dog was spayed or neutered, and there may be a correlation between over- or under-exercising.
Another cause of arthritis is hip dysplasia, or a malformed hip socket. While it’s not too common in Border Collies, you should take your pup in for an x-ray when they’re young to prevent potential damage from dysplasia.
So, how can you tell that your dog may be suffering from arthritis? The most common symptoms are…
- Difficulty moving: they take a while when laying down or standing up, can’t hop onto the bed or in the car like they used to, limping, etc.
- Your usually affectionate dog refuses physical attention, e.g. petting.
- Altered gait. Basically, they walk differently than they used to.
A special note for Border Collies: oftentimes, a relatively common Border Collie condition called myelopathy is misdiagnosed as arthritis, as the symptoms are very similar. Myelopathy is an aggressive spinal disease that first manifests as difficulty using the rear legs. Make sure you book a visit to the vet for an accurate diagnosis.
Most treatment for arthritis focuses on pain management and preventing further degeneration of the joints- unfortunately, there’s no known “cure” for arthritis. You vet may recommend a few of the following treatments.