Recognizing Symptoms, Diagnosing, and Treating Canine Arthritis


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of canine arthritis to occur in a dog’s hocks (ankles). Sometimes referred to as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage wears away and bone-on-bone friction occurs. This painful condition causes bone destruction, as well as tissue swelling and abnormal bone regrowth. Although there is no cure for canine arthritis, there are treatments your veterinarian can prescribe to reduce pain and slow the disease. These treatments include: surgery, prescription medications and physical therapy.

If your dog is suffering arthritis in his hocks, he may exhibit some tell-tale signs. If he’s limping, favoring other paws, lame or excessively licking a particular hock or paw then contact your veterinarian immediately. Other signs include: decreased alertness and tiredness. Your veterinarian will begin a series of diagnostic tests, wherein you’ll be required to share your dog’s medical history. Radiographs and a physical exam may be conducted, which should help your veterinarian determine if your dog’s arthritis is inherited, caused by aging or caused by a previous injury.

Treating Hock Arthritis with Arthrodesis Surgery

In the hocks, the only arthritis surgery that can be performed is arthrodesis. This surgery is only performed in severely debilitating cases of end-stage arthritis. In order to be a candidate for the surgery, your dog’s hock must be free of infection. While your dog is anesthetized, your veterinarian will remove all the cartilage from the affected area. Then, bone graft will be placed into the joint and the joint will be fused into a stable position with screws, plates, pins or wires. After approximately six weeks of rest and recovery, you will begin increasing your dog’s exercise. Most dog owners report significant improvements after arthrodesis surgery.

Treating Hock Arthritis with Prescription Medications

Unfortunately for dogs, there is no cure for arthritis, as surgery doesn’t become a viable option until all other treatments have been exhausted. It’s likely your veterinarian will prescribe medications to help your dog manage his pain and reduce the swelling. These medications may include: antibiotics, painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs. All drugs must be taken as prescribed and some drugs have undesirable side-effects, so make sure to thoroughly follow your veterinarian’s instructions, as well as read the labels of any medications.

Treating Hock Arthritis with Physical Therapy and Home Care

Because arthritis in the hocks is particularly painful, you should always consult with your veterinarian before providing physical therapy. Your veterinarian may advise that you take your dog on short 5 minute walks and participate in gentle play sessions. Swimming may also be included in physical therapy recommendations. Because arthritis is most often associated with age and weight, you may be asked to change your dog’s diet and participate in weight loss activities.

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