Vet Services Hawkes Bay Ltd

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ARTHRITIS- The biggest issue limiting working dogs performance

This grading system is helpful to use as guide to get the most out of your working dog team. The following will be a brief description of the four grades along with their corresponding treatment options:

Grade 1 Dog Arthritis: This stage describes the beginning of arthritis. The damage to the cartilage is very small. X-rays will show little damage. The dog will experience pain but it will be mild and will have little trouble concealing it. They may resist jumping onto motor bikes or into their kennel but show little other symptoms other than being resistant. They will start to develop reduced ROM (range of motion)

Treatment: Weight loss (if required), physical therapy, good diet choices, joint health supplements such as 4cyte, Mobilize, Grand Mobility. Nurse or vet consult to set up a joint health plan.

Grade 2 Dog Arthritis: X-rays will reveal the beginnings of cracks in the cartilage and growth of bone spurs. The dog will be experiencing some intermittent mild lameness & pain, especially when the arthritic joint is touched. The joints will be slightly inflamed & thickened. Definite resistance to jumping. Reduced ROM.

Treatment: Grade 1 treatment plus intermittent NSAIDS(anti-inflammatories) & Arthropen injections. Vet consult.

Grade 3 Dog Arthritis: This grade refers to moderate to severe dog arthritis. X-rays will reveal bone spurs, & scar tissue around the joints. Your dog will be experiencing chronic pain & inflammation. The lameness will be more frequent & more pronounced. They will take a prolonged time to rise, will refuse to jump. Limited ROM.

Treatment: As per grade 1 & 2, but increase to ongoing NSAIDs. Vet consult.

Grade 4 Dog Arthritis: This grade refers to advanced dog arthritis. The dog will exhibit head bobbing when standing, bunny hopping when running. Frequent or continued lameness because of intense chronic pain & inflammation of the joints. X-rays will show large bone spurs, extensive cartilage loss, “bone to bone” contact, seized joints & extreme limited ROM.

Treatment: As per grade 1, 2, and 3 as well as nerve pain medicines, full time NSAIDS. Vet consult. There is a need to have regular revisits to monitor the quality of life and welfare.

Quality of life: Once medical management is no longer helping, euthanasia needs to be discussed due to lack of quality of life. These animals will show signs of extreme muscle wastage, are unable to get up or stand and have total lameness in one or more limbs due to intense chronic pain.


Regular visits with a vet are required to monitor the dog’s on-going care and welfare. Both vets and owners are obliged under the Animal Welfare act to do this. When we can no longer keep the dog adequately comfortable both the vet and the owner also have a duty of care to alleviate pain and suffering so euthanasia may be the choice required.


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