Arthritis in dogs can be a painful and progressive disease involving the permanent, long-term deterioration and destruction of a joints articular cartilage resulting in chronic pain, inflammation of the surrounding tissues and decreased mobility.
The principal function of articular cartilage is to provide a smooth, lubricated surface for the joint to function and to facilitate low friction transmission of load during movement. Affected cartilage becomes brittle, resulting in increased friction at the joint where those surfaces come together. In severe cases of arthritis, the smooth cartilage that covers and protects the bone ends becomes so thin that the bones begin to rub against one another, gradually wearing each other down.
In an attempt to fuse the affected joint, thus reducing the friction and associated pain brought about by the degenerative process, the dog’s body forms new bone at the articular margins – this coupled with the wearing down of the bones can lead to deformation.
The development of arthritis can be caused by a range of issues. Ultimately anything that causes instability within a joint or that directly affects how forces are loaded or spread throughout it can cause arthritis. Primarily, however, cartilage deterioration can be caused by:
- Trauma, leading to malformation of the affected joint during the healing process.
- Age-related issues, cumulative or repetitive wear and tear on the joints.
- Congenital or conformation abnormalities, predisposing a joint to abnormal wear.
- Nutritional deficiencies, depriving the tissues of the building blocks for sound development.
- Growth abnormalities, causing instability in the joint, leading to abnormal movement.
- Infection, inflammation or disease may prevent the correct formation of cartilage.
- Arthritis may occur in response to another issue or condition affecting the joint, for example, a luxating patella or hip dysplasia; when this happens, it is known as secondary joint disease.
- Symptoms will vary depending on the joints involved, the dog’s age and the severity of the disease. In many cases, affected dogs may have a long history of insidious lameness and may demonstrate an altered gait in an attempt to compensate for the pain of the condition.
- There may also be decreased activity levels in general or a reluctance to move.
Varying degrees of lameness, stiffness and joint pain that worsens with exercise can be symptomatic along with muscle atrophy in the affected limb or limbs and the vocalisation of pain when touched, presenting either aggressive or withdrawn behaviour and possibly biting or licking at the site of the pain.
THE USE OF MYOTHERAPY TO SUPPORT CANINE ARTHRITIS
Galen Myotherapy treatment can help relax muscles, ease stiffness and release tension. It can help maintain an arthritic joints normal range of movement, supporting joint health and mobility and reducing associated pain from secondary muscle problems.
As a result of the original trauma or ongoing compensatory issues, the muscles surrounding the affected joint may have shortened in length, yet their role in supporting the joint has become increasingly important.
Myotherapy treatment reduces tension in these surrounding muscles, increasing circulation, reducing swelling and enabling tissues to repair. Passive movement can form a valuable part of any myotherapy treatment and provides controlled stimulation to the nerve endings of the limb, which provide positional awareness of the joint to the dog’s brain.
Controlled and supported movement of an arthritic joint initiates the readjustment of muscle tension through the reflex centre of the central nervous system, leading to sensory receptors within the joint being less hypersensitive and a lessening of the restriction of previous habitual movement. Passive joint movement encourages the lubrication of the joints structures whilst the associated tendons of the joint capsule are mechanically warmed, maintaining their flexibility.
Myotherapy can influence the release of endorphins via the dog’s parasympathetic nervous system. Endorphins help to soothe pain from secondary muscle problems found throughout the dog’s body, generated by compensation and an adapted gait. A reduction in tension affecting muscles that have been protecting and supporting the joint can have a pronounced physiological and psychological effect.
If you are worried about your dog’s canine arthritis diagnosis, why not consider joining other proactive dog owners and learn how to enjoy better, quality time with your dog and help your best friend to live their best life.
If you’ve observed changes in your dog’s behaviour or capabilities and are worried about what to do to support them, you will find my arthritis support workshop invaluable.
We discuss a wide range of ways you can support your dog’s mobility, including simple but powerful exercises focusing on functional biomechanics.
I will be demonstrating appropriate massage techniques you can use on your dog and provide individual instruction and feedback to ensure that you feel confident in using the techniques.