Like people, dogs can suffer from osteoarthritis, along with other bone disorders.

What is Osteoarthritis in dogs?

Osteo = bone / Arthritis = inflammation

Osteoarthritis commonly affects weight-bearing joints and is a degenerative condition that affects synovial joints, specifically the articular cartilage and subchondral bone. Also referred to as general “wear and tear” or in dogs – Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) – and whilst its prevalence tends to increase with age it is not caused by the aging process. Of the 100 or so arthritic conditions it is the most common form or arthritis or inflammation of a joint.

Causes can be primary or secondary where primary is the more common type being linked to general wear and tear as the joints are well used over time or where biomechanical stresses have impacted the joint through excessive use or muscular imbalance.

Secondary is the result of known causes and occurs in joints in which cartilage has already been damaged and as such can affect younger dogs. Examples would be joint hyper-mobility where the ligaments that support the joint are lax; congenital deformity of bones as in elbow and hip dysplasia (see separately); previous trauma i.e. fractures or cruciate ligament ruptures; or overuse or repetitive strain. Obesity is also a big factor as well as inactivity where the muscles and tendons tend to be weaker and therefore do not provide the joint with the stability it needs.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis you may see in your dog:

  • Reduced range of movement and stiffness especially in the mornings or after rest
  • Pain on movement, and ultimately with rest, as the disease progresses and pain receptors are affected
  • Crepitus or creaky joints
  • Periods of acute inflammation
  • Muscle spasm or oedema
  • Lameness and or stiff gait that worsens with exercise
  • Irritability and behavioural changes

How can Clinical Canine Massage help with Osteoarthritis?

Local massage is contraindicated in the acute flare up stages otherwise massage can be extremely helpful as follows:

  • Releasing Trigger points or spasm in the muscles surrounding the joint thus decreasing or eliminating the pain and reducing the compressive forces on the joint
  • Warms the muscles around the joint whilst improving circulation bringing nutrients to the area and removing cell waste and debris
  • General massage helps ease compensating structures that have to work harder to support the dogs movement
  • Calms the autonomic nervous system breaking the pain – tension – pain cycle
  • Mobilisation and gentle pain free stretching is helpful both within the treatment session and is great as after care advice for owners to follow