What Is End-Stage Arthritis in Dogs?

Arthritis can occur at any stage of a dog’s life. However, with the final stage of arthritis, your dog may suffer constant pain and the inability to move. We’re explaining what end-stage arthritis is in dogs, including its implications and potential solution.

What Is End-Stage Arthritis in Dogs?

End-stage arthritis in dogs refers to loss of cartilage, causing constant pain when the bones and joints rub against each other. The fourth stage of osteoarthritis results in limited mobility and discomfort when moving. As muscle tissue degenerates, dogs will suffer from abnormal limb loading, severe lameness, and an eventual high level of dysfunction.A brown and white short-coated dog lying on a brown sofa

Dogs with arthritis can live for years. Despite that, there may come a time when their quality of life worsens, prompting some owners to consider euthanasia to end the pain. Understanding what end-stage osteoarthritis means in dogs is crucial to make the best decision for your pet’s health.

What Does Severe Arthritis Look Like in Dogs?

Canine arthritis is a degenerative disease that causes joint and bone stiffness. This condition is more common in senior dogs because of wear and tear over the years. However, even younger dogs can have arthritis due to injury or a genetic predisposition.

With healthy joints, cartilage will help a dog’s bone move and function smoothly. Meanwhile, arthritic joints will cause inflammation and stiffness.

This is why dogs with severe arthritis may have difficulty walking or sitting. They may also experience trembling or limping whenever they move. In addition, they would be less interested in their usual activities requiring too much movement.

What Are the Stages of Canine Arthritis?

Canine arthritis is a long-term inflammatory disease that develops over time, so each stage may cause dogs to become progressively less active.

Some signs may appear subtle, making it challenging to detect the effects. You must understand the other stages to help monitor your dog’s condition before it reaches end-stage osteoarthritis.

Stage 0 to 1: Pre-Osteoarthritis

Stages 0 and 1 are pre-clinical stages, where dogs are still clinically normal. However, those at stage 1 may be at risk because of one or more risk factors.

  • Joint injury
  • Ligament injury
  • Joint trauma
  • Breed disposition
  • Signs of dysplasia

Stage 2: Mild Osteoarthritis

The second stage of canine arthritis shows lameness and subtle stiffness in gait. There’s also asymmetry and changes in static body weight distribution. Furthermore, there’s little damage to the joints, and the condition is still manageable at this point.

Stage 3: Moderate Osteoarthritis

The third stage of canine arthritis shows an evident abnormality in the limbs, stiffness in gait, and body weight distribution. Moderate osteoarthritis can have intermittent symptoms, mainly resulting in decreased mobility due to the affected joints.

In this stage, you may see your dog slowing down or limping on more than one leg. Your pet may also struggle in engaging in activities or doing its usual exercise routines.An English bulldog with a brown and white coat lying on the carpet

Stage 4: Severe or End-Stage Osteoarthritis

End-stage arthritis in dogs manifests in atrophied muscles, which refers to decreased muscle tissue size as they degenerate. As the condition worsens, the loss of cartilage results in a restricted range of motion, particularly in the shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, and spine.

These symptoms may happen simultaneously.

  • Becoming restless when standing
  • Reluctance to move
  • Severe lameness
  • Weight shift
  • Abnormal limb loading
  • Eventually, being unable to walk
  • Higher level of dysfunction
  • Constant and obvious pain

How to Treat End-Stage Osteoarthritis in Dogs

While there’s no direct cure for arthritis, your vet may recommend these medications and treatments:

  • Low-impact and strength-building exercises
  • Pain management medication to reduce inflammation
  • Therapy or acupuncture
  • Regular veterinary check-ups

Osteoarthritis is among the most underdiagnosed syndromes in dogs, affecting at least 20% of the canine population, or 10 to 12 million dogs in the United States. Owners may only know about the condition in the final stage.

Thus, seeing a vet about a potential treatment for osteoarthritis in pets is best, especially for dogs in the fourth stage. Vets will have to do physical examinations and other tests to determine the right course of action.

When Is It Time to Put Down a Dog With Severe Arthritis?

Dogs with arthritis can live for years if they constantly receive treatment and have the proper lifestyle to make them comfortable. However, it may be time to consider in-home pet euthanasia if your pet has lost interest in life because of its inability to move on its own.

Severe arthritis would have persistent pain since most of your dog’s cartilage is gone. Lack of mobility can be life-threatening to dogs, especially since this may also make them gain weight, experience bruising, or suffer from depression.

End-stage osteoarthritis can also affect a pet owner’s welfare, especially since medical treatment poses a significant financial cost. For instance, about $1.32 billion was spent on ligament ailments in dogs in the United States in 2003. Additionally, you must consider the emotional cost of dealing with and caring for an ailing pet.A couple comforting their dog before euthanasia

Related Questions

What Are the Signs of Arthritis in Dogs?

Among the common signs of canine arthritis include lameness, sensitivity about being touched at the joints, and hesitating to move. Other dogs may also become uncharacteristically grumpy, irritable, or anxious. Some dogs may appear tired and become limp while moving.

How to Prevent Canine Arthritis?

To prevent canine arthritis, take care of your puppy’s joints, set an active lifestyle, and avoid activities that may cause joint trauma. Schedule health screening and hip scoring if your dog’s breed is at risk. While it’s impossible to prevent age-induced arthritis, you can limit the chances early in your dog’s life.

Can Arthritis Shorten a Dog’s Life?

Canine osteoarthritis can only shorten a dog’s life if left unmanaged, especially at the final stage. If you provide the necessary care, your pet can still enjoy a long life.

Conclusion

End-stage arthritis is a degenerative condition in dogs that decreases muscle mass and strength, making it painful to move the joints and bones. The severe fourth stage may eventually lead to an inability to move. Paws Into Grace can help you analyze your dog’s quality of life to determine if it’s time to consider euthanasia.

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I can't recommend them enough. I had to say goodbye to my 21 year old cat companion. I read the reviews here on Yelp and chose Paws Into Grace and they made an unbearable situation not worse - from the people on the phone to the amazing doctor who came out to the house. She was so understanding and supportive. They were all so helpful, understanding and nice. My girl got to stay at home and say goodbye in the backyard (a hummingbird flew over and it seemed like a good sign too). So glad I didn't have to take her to a cold vet office.

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