If you begin to notice your dog slowing down or having joint stiffness, he may be exhibiting signs of arthritis.  Arthritis is the continual breaking down or weakening of the joint cartilage, and can be caused a variety of ways. The disease unfortunately affects 25% of domestic dogs and 20% of cats, and though most common in senior animals, can occur at any age.  Learn what causes arthritis, and what risks your pet is subjected to when he is diagnosed with the condition, so that you can be better prepared to help him avoid further joint damage and discomfort.

Hyperactivity:  Many dogs require rigorous exercise in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  However, when animals are hyperactive, they can put too much stress and strain on the joints when they do activities like climbing stairs, running uphill, walking long distances on hard surfaces, etc. This can cause their joint cartilage to break down.

Size: The size of the animal also can increase a pet’s chances for arthritis. The breeds with the highest likelihood to develop the disease are:  German Shepherds, Poodles, Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Dachshunds, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, St. Bernards, and Old English Sheepdogs.  All but the Dachshunds are breeds of a larger and heavier build, and statistically speaking, 45% of large breeds develop arthritis.

Age:  As animals age, the shock-absorbing layer of cartilage can be eroded over time, causing osteoarthritis and joint inflammation in their senior years. The condition most often occurs in the limb joints and in the spine.  Small dogs over 8 years old, and bigger breeds over 5 years old are most susceptible to osteoarthritis when they age.

Injury: If a dog has experienced an injury such as muscle tearing, dislocation, or trauma to the ligament, this can lead to eroded cartilage if it does not heal properly. Pushing a dog with strenuous exercise before an injury has sufficiently mended, or straining an unhealed muscle or joint can lead to arthritis.

Obesity:  Obesity is one of the most common ailments dogs and cats face. Often caused from poor nutrition, over-feeding and under-exercising, hefty animals can suffer from joint agitation, swelling and soreness by carrying more weight than their bodies were meant to accommodate.

Genetics: Not all dog breeds share the same chances of developing arthritis. No matter how hyperactive or overweight they may become, or conversely, how seriously they avoid joint overuse, some are genetically predisposed to develop arthritis.

Other contributing factors:  When a dog has physical birth defects or joint deformities, this can create an imbalanced physical structure causing more weight to fall on certain areas. Overextending the joints is another primary cause of arthritis.

Risks With Arthritis

If your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis, while you are in the process of seeking treatments for the condition,  be aware of the potential risks your pet faces.  Soreness and swelling of joints will make your pup less inclined to jump, walk, or run, and may cause him to avoid exercising altogether. This might increase the weight gain and obesity, thereby exacerbating his discomfort. They will experience a disinclination to move as quickly as they may have done in the past. For example, slowed reactions when objects are coming toward the pet, limited mobility or pain during sudden or full-ranging movements could put the dog in harm’s way. He could fall into a hole, or get caught without the ability to escape, and might be injured if the pup is unable to move out of the way of oncoming objects in time. Bear this in mind when working with your dog, to help steer him clear of potential disasters that could inhibit his healing.