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Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis seen in dogs and may affect up to 30% of the population.  It more often manifests in older dogs and can have vague and non-specific signs, such as

  • reluctance to exercise
  • decreased overall activity
  • stiffness
  • lameness
  • inability to jump
  • changes in gait such as ‘bunny hopping’
  • pain on manipulation of joints
  • behavioral changes such as aggression, restlessness at night.

It is a chronic disease in dogs and arises mostly as a sequel to joint problems like cranial cruciate ligament disease, hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.  There is loss of the cartilage within the joint as well as new bone formation around the joint.  Both of these changes contribute to inflammation and pain within the joint.

Diagnosis is made on physical examination and confirmed with X-rays or other advanced imaging such as MRI or CT scans.

Our treatment recommendations are multi-modal (include different approaches to help relieve pain and increase activity levels).  We look at each individual animal and determine the best plan in consultation with the owner. We may look to use a combination of the following:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Adjunctive pain medications
  • Joint supplements
  • Weight control
  • Activity modification
  • Rehabilitation therapy (physiotherapy)
  • Acupuncture
  • Low level laser therapy
  • Stem cell therapy
  • Surgery (different options depending on the joint involved, some of these are referred to a specialist surgeon).

We are able to offer a lot for the arthritic dogs and cats in our practice and below are a few more details of some of them:

Rehabilitation therapy:  This involves assessing the musculoskeletal system of the animal and then creating a treatment plan to minimise pain, improve function and quality of life.  Gail uses a combination of therapies – manual therapy, acupuncture, laser therapy, therapeutic exercise and exercise modification.  It is suitable for dogs starting to suffer from arthritis and also post surgery or injury, to regain full function and ensure a safe return to work or sport.

Acupuncture:  the insertion of fine needles into the body tissues where nerve bundles and blood vessels come together, often described as acupuncture points along meridians. Acupuncture enhances blood circulation, nervous system stimulation, and the release of anti-inflammatory and pain relieving hormones.  It can also be used to calm nervous animals, stimulate appetite and help control nausea.

Low level laser therapy: We have two class 3b lasers which we use on companion animals and horses.  It relieves pain, reduces inflammation and increases the speed of healing.  It is safe and effective and well tolerated.  It can be used to treat fractures; tendon, muscle and ligament injuries; wounds; skin problems, arthritis and degenerative joint conditions; chronic and acute inflammation; and pain.

Stem cell therapy:  this can be used to help reduce the inflammation inside the joints and thereby provide in some cases quite profound relief from pain.  Owners often report a much improved demeanour, level of activity and appetite in their animal after treatment.  It can be used alongside tendon/joint surgery to improve the healing response.  We are able to offer this treatment in all of our branches, if it is deemed appropriate for the patient. 

Joint supplements:  there are a lot of supplements on the market and we are happy to help select an appropriate and good quality product for your animal. 




Our Clinics

North Canterbury Veterinary Clinics operates four clinics throughout the Hurunui region.