Things About Joints
and how they can affect pets
The main purpose of joints is to keep parts of the mammal skeleton together. They literally join certain parts of the body helping it to bend and move.
If your dog suffers from joint disease, everything is not working the way it should. There are pain relief options available which we’ll get into later, but first, let’s take a closer look at JOINTS.
WHAT ARE JOINTS ‘MADE’ OF?
There are 5 parts that form a joint.
• Collagen, a type of tissue, is the main structural protein that exists in skin and other connective tissues. It essentially serves as ‘scaffolding’ for the other components.
• Tendons consist of collagen fibres which are flexible, but not elastic. Their purpose is to attach muscles to bones.
• Ligaments are a short band of tough, regular connective tissue bundles made of collagenous fibres. They connect bones to other bones to form joints and they also stabilise joints to help keep bones properly aligned when movement occurs.
Joints with few or weaker ligaments (e.g. the shoulder) allow more motion; joints with strong support structures (e.g. the hip joint) are more stable, with a smaller range of motion.
• Cartilage, which is more widespread in infants, becomes replaced by bone in some places as we grow. Its initial purpose is to give the body form and later it continues to give structure to parts such as our ears and noses. It’s also found in the larynx and respiratory tract. In other places in the body it prevents creaking, or bone-on-bone clanking, presenting as a soft tissue plate. As firm, flexible, connective tissue it’s also an internal shock absorber for joints.
Cartilage gets its nutrients from synovial fluid that surrounds it.
• Synovial fluid is there to reduce friction between the articular cartilage of synovial joints during movement. An injured joint will lead to an overproduction of synovial fluid which causes painful swelling.
TYPES OF JOINTS AND THEIR PURPOSE
THIS JOINT BUSINESS IS ALL GREAT, BUT WHAT IF JOINTS DON’T WORK PROPERLY?
This scenario is not uncommon in dogs.
The ability to move, walk, run and jump are important to cats and dogs, physically and emotionally. It’s freedom, it’s fun and it’s necessary to the find the ultimate comfortable position to rest.
If pain makes it difficult to do all the normal things cats and dogs want to (and should) do, there’s a problem.
If you think your dog is experiencing pain, it could be a sign of joint disease, for example osteoarthritis (OA), AKA degenerative joint disease. The disease is characterised by inflamed, swollen and painful joints, which aren’t always visible or obvious. Symptoms and signs of OA include stiffness of the joints, limping, lameness and often some loss of mobility due to pain. Commonly affected parts include the spine, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.
Don’t wait if you notice any signs of bone, joint or muscle pain.