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Managing Osteoarthritis (OA) in the Dog

What is osteoarthritis (OA) in dogs and can it be treated?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a very common problem in dogs. It can affect dogs in various ways through the different stages of their life, from being barely noticeable to absolutely debilitating. It is a progressive disease, but its rate of progression will vary based on the cause and how it is managed.

Situational Awareness

The veterinary profession has made great strides in managing OA over the past 20 years, and not simply because we have better drugs! We better understand how to create and maintain joint health, which means we have identified many tools that can be utilized to improve the function and decrease the pain of an arthritic joint.
The term “multimodal treatment approach” is used frequently when discussing OA. Although it might be comforting to know that there are many tools at our disposal to help manage OA, it can also be daunting to figure out how to put it all together.

Learn how to manage OA in the dog!

All the information you need. Fully narrated surgical videos. In depth guide and more.
Pre-management Considerations:
  • Blood work to show that NSAIDs can be safely used in this patient. The blood work may need to be repeated at regular intervals based on the frequency of NSAID use in the patient.
  • Relationships with people in the community who can assist you and your client with various services: e.g. acupuncturist, rehabilitation center, chiropractor, nutritionist/food company.
  • Consider empowering your staff to create and run a successful weight loss program within your hospital. Obesity is such a rampant problem in the pet population; programs like these can be helpful for so many patients. Alternatively, find a neighbouring hospital that has a successful weight loss program in place that can help your patient.
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What the client needs to know:
  • The client will actually be the one managing their pet’s OA under the guidance of the veterinarian and their team.
  • A large component of the consultation revolves around understanding OA and how we can help the pet’s quality of life.
  • A very good to excellent quality of life is possible for a pet with OA but it will take work and some adjustments along the way. A change of habits may be necessary.
  • Although medications are an important component to help manage OA, the goal is to get the pet off the drugs and use other tools to maintain comfort and activity levels.
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Key points for a successful cystotomy

Use stay sutures instead of tissue forceps to handle the bladder. This will minimize tissue trauma.
Once you have created your ventral midline cystotomy incision, enlarge it to facilitate removal of the stones
Before closing, evert the bladder and look for tiny stones within the mucosa and flush.
I like the 2 layer closure in the dog because it is fast, has few knots and the inversion helps to prevent adherence of the bladder to the midline abdominal incision. Cats tend to have a thick small bladder which is harder to invert so I close in 1 layer with a simple interrupted pattern.
Use a short lasting, preferably monofilament suture material for closing. Avoid PDS or other long lasting sutures as they can act as a nidus for stone formation as seen in the radiograph

Get ready to manage OA:

There are many tools available to manage OA but they are not weighted equally.
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Q & A

How long do dogs live with OA?

Dogs with properly managed OA can have a normal life expectancy.

What is a pet’s quality of life (QoL) with OA?

The quality of life can be very good to excellent when OA is properly managed. Depending on the pet’s lifestyle and the severity of the OA, some changes to the expected daily activity may be necessary.