Arthritis In Your Pet!
Updated: Jul 6
Arthritis or osteoarthritis is one of the most common ailments seen in ageing pets.
Up to 30% of adult cats and dogs are affected.
However even younger cats and dogs can experience arthritic changes.
Arthritis causes changes within the affected joints resulting in pain and discomfort, in much the same way arthritis affects humans.
Osteoarthritis is usually a result of ongoing wear and tear and joint instability, although other contributing factors may include injury, infection, genetic disposition and immune mediated disease.
Any joint can be affected by arthritis however the most commonly affected joints are the knee, hip, shoulder and elbow joints.
These larger joints rely on cartilage for cushioning and protection. This layer of cartilage also provides a smooth surface for the joint to move across. Joint movement is also aided by synovial fluid which provides lubrication
Arthritis degenerates this cartilage and reduces the synovial fluids lubrication properties, and as such the movement of the adjoining bones becomes less smooth resulting in pain, discomfort and reduced mobility.
Signs your pet may be suffering from arthritis
Although by nature pets are remarkably stoic creatures and may even attempt to mask pain there a some signs that may indicate you pet is suffering from arthritis,
Reluctance to play, walk, jump or climb stairs
Limping or lameness
Stiffness upon rising
Reacting to being touched ie yelping or aggression
Licking of affected joints
You may notice these signs becoming more obvious as the arthritis progresses
Although not able to be cured there are measures that can be taken to effectively control and manage the pain caused by arthritis.
Managing Arthritis in your pet
If you suspect your pet is suffering from arthritis the first port of call should be a consult with your veterinarian for a thorough clinical exam ideally including bloodwork and x-rays to determine to extent of joint degeneration.
A multi-faceted management plan can then be put in place to minimise pain and discomfort and maximise health and well being.
One of the most important aspects of managing an animal with arthritis is weight management.
A patient who is overweight will place significantly more stress on their joints. This stress causes further localised inflammation which in turn can accelerate the joint degeneration.
Exercise is also important in managing a patient with arthritis. However the exercise will need to be controlled in the form of leash walks or swimming. Uncontrolled exercise in the form of off leash running, ball chasing and rough and tumble with other pets may cause further permanent damage to the joints.
Regular exercise is beneficial for keeping the joints mobile and the supporting muscles strong and is a major factor in weight control.
The home environment for a patient with arthritis should provide warm comfortable sleeping areas and beds with plenty of padding away from drafts.
Provide steps or ramps for easier access to favourite spots.
Stair alternatives such as ramps should be provided for pets struggling to climb stairs.
Help getting in and out of the car may also be necessary.
Ensure food, water and toileting areas are convenient for your pet.
There are various treatments that can be recommended by your veterinarian. From anti inflammatories and disease modifying drugs to dietary supplements they can all play a role in managing the arthritic patient.
Non Steroidal anti-inflammatories drugs (NSAIDs) - are animal specific anti-inflammatories that can only be prescribed by your veterinarian. These drugs reduce the inflammation around the affected joints and significantly reduce the pain associated with this inflammation. Often used to manage acute flare ups, most patients respond well to anti-inflammatories.
Dietary supplements and Prescriptions Diets - for example Hills J/D or Hills Metabolic & Mobility, and Glyde. These are all prescription diets or dietary supplements that contain, fish oil, green lipped mussel, glucosamine or chondroitin sulphate. These ingredients can aid in reducing inflammation and provide protection of the joints long term.
Disease Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs - (Pentosan or Zydax)
Usually a course of 4 weekly injections, these drugs are designed to increase joint fluid production and blood supply to the joint surfaces. The injections protect the joint cartilage by promoting new cartilage formation and thickening the joint fluid to provide better lubrication. Thus in turn provides pain relief and treats all joints in the body.