When arthritis is diagnosed in dogs, many owners with OA feel true empathy. They know what it’s like to have achy, stiff joints, so they make it a top priority to ease their pets’ discomfort. 

Carol and Abe

When Carol Pierce of Bucks County, Pa., noticed her dog limping last year, she went right to the vet. The diagnosis: knee osteoarthritis (OA).

Carol has OA, too – in her right wrist. She occasionally takes an over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). But Abe gets the prescription NSAID carprofen (Rimadyl) daily. “I’m not one of those people who just sits around thinking about my aches and pains,” Carol says. “But for Abe, he comes first. He can’t talk, so I make sure his pain is taken care of.”

It’s no surprise that both Carol and Abe have it; they share a few risk factors. OA in both dogs and people usually stems from age, excess weight, trauma to a joint and/or overuse injuries. Abe, who is 10, spent his early years on a greyhound racetrack. Carol, who is 60, has injured her wrist several times.

Carol does her best to ignore her ever-present, dull ache, but she closely monitors Abe’s comfort level, even massaging the corns that grow on the bottom of his paws. “Everyone who knows me knows that in my life, my dogs come first,” she says.

Martin and Penny

Penny, a 9-year-old border collie, has hip OA, but for the past eight years has been competing in agility – an activity in which dogs literally jump over obstacles, run through tunnels and make sharp turns at top speed.

She’s well taken care of by owner Martin Levy, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York. “There are four tenets to OA treatment: Weight management, moderate exercise, NSAIDs and glucosamine,” he says. “We treat dog OA with all the things we do for humans, and it works.” He follows the same treatment regimen for his own knee OA.

Penny is proof. She has had hip dysplasia – a joint abnormality that can lead to OA – since she was a year old. But following those four tenets – especially staying trim – has enabled her to compete very successfully in agility nearly all her life. “That’s why I think Penny’s story matters,” says Dr. Levy.

Susan and Baldwin

Susan Hartzler and her 10-year-old Puli, Baldwin, also enjoyed agility trials for years. When Baldwin slowed down significantly, trainers told Susan he was just acting spoiled.

Soon after, Baldwin suddenly howled in pain on a walk near their home in Los Angeles. He’d torn his ACL in one knee, and the vet said the other was sure to go next. “It turns out his knees had been hurting him all along,” Susan says.