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Arthritis & Joint Problems

Arthritis & Joint Problems

Feb 06, 2021

Lew Olson

Arthritis is currently estimated to affect one in eight dogs. This certainly is a specific problem in the breed of Rottweilers, and covers a wide variety of ailments. Arthritis is defined as an inflammation of the joints, so it describes a symptom rather than a specific disease. The causes of arthritis and joint pain can be varied in our breed, from a specific injury, to arthritis causing conditions, and autoimmune disorders.

Traumatic Injury such as inflammation and pain in the joints can be caused by overuse or repeated use that causes temporary or permanent injury. This is often seen when a dog is worked too young or too often in activities such as roadbook, jumping or hard play with other dogs. The repeated stress and strain on the joint can cause inflammation, resulting in deterioration of the cartilage, loss of synovial fluid and eventual buildups of boney spurs and/or bone chips. Early symptoms include limping, swelling in the joints and pain on manipulation of the affected joints. This can be hard to detect in Rottweilers, as many will not respond to pain as other breeds of dogs. If detected early, response to the injury is found with rest and avoiding the activities that caused the inflammation.

Arthritis Causing Joint Conditions
Some types of these conditions include:
Canine Hip Dysplasia
This condition involves the development of the ball and socket found in the hip joint. Dysplasia simply means 'bad development,' and describes several disorders. The ball of the hip may not fit into the socket correctly, the socket may be too shallow, the ball may not be the correct size or 'roundness' to fit well, or the ball joint may not even be placed inside the socket of the hip. It does take a radiograph to correctly diagnosis this condition. It is generally thought to be genetic in nature, although there is speculation that other factors such as injury, excessive exercise or diet can play a role in hip development. As the dog ages, and irritation develops from the incorrect set of the ball and socket joint, inflammation and deterioration of the hip joint can occur.
Elbow Dysplasia
This is a disease found most commonly in large, fast-growing canines. The cartilage in the affected joints becomes thickened, and can eventually die. As the cartilage dies, it peels from the bone, and protrudes into the joint. It is also believed to be genetic in nature, with environment contributing to this condition. Six types of elbow dysplasia include: osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD), ununited anconeal process (UAP), fragmented coronoid process (FCP) and degenerative joint disease (DJD). These conditions are determined by radiographs.
Ruptured Cruciate Ligament
Found in the rear legs of the dog, these ligaments can become torn or injured during such activities as jumping, pivoting on the rear legs, or ordinary activity if the dog is born with weak cruciate ligaments. As this ligament is a necessary part of the knee joint, injury can cause pain and arthritis in the leg.
Geriatric Osteoarthritis
A form of arthritic condition found in older dogs, it is caused by wear and tear of the joints. This condition is generally affected by weather changes and strenuous exercise as the dog ages.
Although this is not technically a joint disorder, this condition is included as it is often confused with the diagnosis of CHD, OCD and Elbow Dysplasia. This is a disease that most often affects the long bones in the legs. It is diagnosed through radiographs that discover increased areas of density which can mean formation of bone in the marrow cavity. Symptoms vary from subtle to dramatic lameness that can switch from leg to leg. It most often appears between five and twelve months of age, and can affect one or more legs at a time. It has also been reported in later ages as well. Panosteitis is a disease of unknown causes.
Autoimmune Disorders
More research is being conducted regarding the autoimmune response in relationship to arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune response, but it is rarely seen in dogs. Some conditions that can cause autoimmune triggers leading to arthritis in dogs include lyme disease, valley fever and lupus. There is also speculation that some food allergies and vaccinations can lead to inflammation of the joints. Arthritis can act as an autoimmune disorder, as it appears to attack cartilage and destroy joint linings.
Traditional Medicine Approaches to Treating Arthritis and Joint Pain
The traditional approach covers two areas. One is the use of medications for inflammation and pain, and the other is surgery, to correct and repair bone or cartilage disorders. This type of therapy is focused on reducing the symptoms.
These are the most potent anti-inflammatory agents. The types most often used for arthritis are prednisone and dexamethasone. Although these drugs were used commonly in the past, they are not used as often today. Their side effects include weight gain, high blood pressure, thinning of the bones and skin, kidney failures, failure of the immune system, atrophy of adrenal gland, osteoporosis, hypertension. Prolonged use can worsen symptoms of arthritis.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
A group of drugs including ibuprofen, Motrin, naproxen sodium, ketoprofen and aspirin, they are inappropriate for dogs, as they can cause gastritis, intestinal bleeding, vomiting, dizziness, headaches and allergic reactions. A new drug is now on the market which is being prescribed by veterinarians. It is called Rimadyl, or Carprofen. Although it is in the same family as ibuprofen, it is being advertised as safe for dogs. There has been some anecdotal information on liver failure, diarrhea and vomiting when dogs use this drug. Although the veterinarians' associations deny this, they are recommending lowering the dose after seven days, and to observe for black or tarry stools, and treat for kidney problems before using this drug. In Europe, it is generally recommended not to use this drug for more than three days in succession.
This is an injectable substance known as polysufated gylcosaminoglycan. It is injected intramuscularly twice weekly for up to four weeks. Its action is believed to replace the synovial fluid lost in the joints due to arthritis conditions. It has no known side effects. It can be expensive, and does not work in all conditions of arthritis.
Traditional veterinary medicine uses surgery to ease pain and try to correct arthritic conditions in dogs. Although some surgeries can alleviate conditions, the invasive procedures themselves can cause further arthritis later in the dog's life. It is recommended to get a second opinion before proceeding.
Canine Hip Dysplasia Surgery Options
A Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO)
The word osteotomy means 'to cut bone.' This surgery is designed, by cutting the pelvis and hip bone in three places, to rotate the acetabular portion so the femoral head will fit in place. For a dog to be a candidate, they must be at least seven months old, have partial dislocation of the hip, the femoral head and acetabulum are normal in shape and there is no arthritis present. Once arthritis sets in, it is too late to perform the surgery to reduce pain. This surgery includes several screws, wires and a stainless steel plate. Estimated cost of this procedure is $1,200, and generally one leg is done first, with the second hip having the same operation six weeks later. The recovery period is six to nine weeks, with exercise being severely limited during that time.
Femoral Head Osteotomy
This is a procedure performed by having the head of the femur removed, and muscles from the surrounding tissue utilized to compensate for the missing joint. This operation is not used in Rottweilers, as it is only successful in dogs weighing less than 40 pounds.
Uncemented Hip Prosthesis
This is the newest technique. It creates good hip support by building a beaded surface to which the bone and fibrous tissue attach.
BOP Shelf Arthroplasty
BOP is an experimental method that uses polymer lattices implanted into the joint. The theory is that new bone will grow over the lattice. This is not offered yet to the public.
Total Hip Replacement
In this surgery, a new acetabulum is built using what is called a polyethelene socket. The ball is also replaced with a metal prosthesis.
Canine Elbow Dsyplasia and Osteochondrosis Options
The most popular choice for surgery in these conditions is removal of the extra or dead cartilage flaps from the joint. Although elbow dysplasia is commonly found in Rottweilers, most published reports suggest surgery in Rottweilers has little benefit, compared to other breeds.
Canine Cruciate Ligament Repair
This surgery does not involve cutting the bone, but it is an invasive surgery, used to repair the torn or ruptured ligament. It is often the case that when one cruciate ligament needs repair, the other leg will eventually develop the same problem.
Alternative Approaches and Solutions
Although there are no cures for arthritic conditions, there are several techniques and methods that can help alleviate the pain, inflammation and prevent further damage. Alternative and holistic approaches differ from traditional methods by treating the underlying causes and promoting nutritional support. The idea is to promote better health by treating the "whole dog," through diet, exercise, supplements and a positive attitude. Rather than just treat the symptoms, holistic methods are developed to promote overall good health. The healthier the dog, the better the dog's system is able to help in overcoming disease.
While the most common method for feeding dogs is dry kibble, it is becoming more evident that fresh food can improve a dog's health. Dry dog foods are cooked and processed for three to four days, and lose most of the nutrients through the cooking process. Additives and supplements are added, to meet government standards, but cannot match the nutrient value of fresh food. Many preservatives are added as well, (BHT, BHA and ethyoxiquin) which are also proving to have side effects, including joint problems. Digestibility is also a factor. Dry kibble takes 14 to 16 hours to digest in a dog's system, while fresh foods can digest in four to six hours. Fresh, healthy nutrients are important for recovery and good joint health. There are several good books on preparing a fresh diet, including Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown DVM's book, A Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog," and Dr. Pitcairn's Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. There are also fresh food recipes listed on my web site. Good diet and fresh foods are the most important element in healthy joints, fighting arthritis and setting the stage for recovery.