Listening to What Your Dog Isn’t Saying

It’s important to pick up those signs that dogs show when in pain, writes Dr. Mara Tugel, Consulting Veterinarian at Elanco Animal Health.

As a veterinarian, I am trained to detect subtle abnormalities in my patients that may indicate an underlying disease. As a dog mom, I am well aware of how difficult it can be to notice subtle changes in my own dog’s health, especially if they happen gradually over time. Dogs don’t complain about aches and pains the way people might (after all, isn’t that part of what we love about dogs??), so when it comes to canine osteoarthritis (OA) many dogs are actually suffering in silence. What better way to celebrate International Dog Day than by giving a voice to our furry friends and recognizing the subtle signs that could mean big pain.

Canine osteoarthritis affects 1 in 5 dogs.1

Unlike in humans, canine OA is often the result of developmental problems like hip and elbow dysplasia, so even young dogs can be affected.

2

The signs of canine OA may be hard to recognize, even in your own dog.3

Dogs do not always show obvious signs of pain. The signs of canine OA can be as subtle as your dog lagging behind during walks, hesitating before jumping into the car, having difficulty going up or down stairs, or seeming stiff or shaky when rising. These signs may not be recognized as abnormal at first, or may be dismissed as normal aging change, but could be a signal that your dog is in pain.

The best way to combat canine OA is early detection and intervention.3

Experts in veterinary medicine have developed the Canine OsteoArthritis Staging Tool (COAST) to help you and your veterinarian work together to recognize and treat OA at its earliest stages to keep your dog comfortable and healthy.

An important part of COAST is to recognize risk factors that increase your dog’s risk of developing OA, even if your dog is pain-free today. Examples of risk factors include obesity, breed, intense activity, joint injury or surgery, and age.

Canine OA is a progressive disease, so COAST can be used to track your dog over time and customize the treatment plan to your individual dog. COAST requires both veterinary and dog owner input, because only you know how canine OA may be affecting your dog’s day-to-day life at home.

So… what should you do if you think your dog may be at risk for OA?

You know your dog best, so you can help your veterinarian by scheduling an appointment to discuss the signs you’re seeing at home or any risk factors you’re concerned about. The good news is there are many effective treatment options for canine OA, so the sooner you bring your dog in to start the discussion the sooner you and your dog can get back to doing the things you love together!

References

1. Johnston SA. Vet Clin N Am Small Anim Pract. 1997;27:699.

2. Epstein ME. Today’s Veterinary Practice. Nov/Dec, 2013.

3. Cachon T, et al. Vet J. 2018; 235: 1-8.

About Mara Tugel

Dr. Mara Tugel attended veterinary school at Iowa State University in her hometown of Ames, Iowa, U.S. After veterinary school, she practiced equine and small animal medicine in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S. She now works as a veterinary consultant with Elanco Animal Health, and is passionate about advancing pet health.

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About Mara Tugel

Dr. Mara Tugel attended veterinary school at Iowa State University in her hometown of Ames, Iowa, U.S. After veterinary school, she practiced equine and small animal medicine in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S. She now works as a veterinary consultant with Elanco Animal Health, and is passionate about advancing pet health.

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