Sorting facts from fiction: Canine osteoarthritis myths


Veterinary surgeon and rehabilitation specialist Denis Marcellin-Little sets the record straight about this common condition.

(, with its long-term, progressive nature, can be a scary diagnosis for clients to hear, especially if they're worried about their pet being in pain all the time. But with education and a treatment plan, these pets can live long, happy lives. Denis Marcellin-Little, DEDV, DACVS, DACVSMR, professor of orthopedics at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, shared three common misconceptions about osteoarthritis and what they really mean.

Myth 1: It only affects older dogs

People often associate osteoarthritis with aging dogs and think it's a disease of wear and tear, Marcellin-Little says. In reality, osteoarthritis is genetic and developmental, and it usually starts within the first few months of a dog's life-during the rapid growth that occurs in the first four to six months. Although it's present early on, it tends to pass under the radar for years and be diagnosed only when its impact is much more profound later in life, Marcellin-Little says.

Myth 2: Affected dogs have to retire from all activity

It may be tempting to let pets with osteoarthritis take it easy, but activity is actually very important in both dogs and people with the disease. In fact, exercise is one of the most powerful weapons against osteoarthritis, Marcellin-Little says. People with osteoarthritis who exercise are less depressed and anxious, need fewer medications, and function and feel better as long as the exercise program is in effect. The same is true in canine patients, he says.

Myth 3: It's a long-term death sentence

Osteoarthritis can be managed very effectively over the long term, particularly if it's diagnosed early and if the dog is engaging in regular activity and staying strong, Marcellin-Little says. If the motion and comfort of the joint is monitored and the pet owner has regular communication with the veterinarian supervising the case, osteoarthritis cases are very manageable, and most dogs can have good quality of life for a long time. 

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