Has your dog been slow to greet you when you return home? Or does your cat no longer appear interested in playing with their favourite toy? There may be a good reason – osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis simply means “inflammation of the joints.” It is one of the most common diseases in pets, and can strike at any age.
What causes osteoarthritis?
- Abnormal stress on normal joints
- An injury that damages a joint
- “Wear” and “tear”: joints are subjected to repeated loads or stress
- Obesity: an excessive load is put on joints
- Normal stress on abnormal joints
- Developmental defects that alter the shape or stability of a joint
- Poor limb configuration: bow legs or knock knees can cause an uneven load on a joint
- Genetic predisposition: some breeds of dogs are just more prone to osteoarthritis than others
Early warning signs of osteoarthritis
- Difficulty in walking, climbing stairs, or getting in or out of the litter box
- An overall decrease in activity, especially play
- Resting more than usual
- Slowness in getting up from a lying position
- For dogs, “bunny hopping” with the hind legs, rather than running normally
- For cats, failing to groom themselves or eating less, with a resulting loss of weight
- Slow or stiff movements, upon waking, after a rest, or in cold weather
- Beginning to limp
- Swollen joint (s) that is warm to the touch
- Licking or biting at a joint
- Personality changes – your pet may no longer like to be touched
How can we treat osteoarthritis?
There are many components to treating osteoarthritis, each equally important.
- Weight control
Dogs or cats that suffer from chronic pain caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis become inactive, which can result in obesity. Controlling your pet’s weight will lighten the load on arthritic joints and make it less difficult to move around. Just as for humans, weight loss involves both a well-balanced, calorie-controlled diet and regular exercise. We can implement a weight loss program tailored to your pet’s specific needs.
This is essential because it contributes to strengthening the muscles that support joints. Daily, moderate amounts of low-impact exercise also improves joint mobility, and can help get a lethargic, arthritic pet active again. Dogs will benefit from activities such as walking and swimming; cats can benefit from play that keeps them moving without excessive jumping. Please consult with us first to ensure what amount and type of exercise would be best for your pet.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
These combat inflammation in the joints, thus relieving pain, increasing mobility and protecting the joint from further damage. NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are commonly used in the treatment of osteoarthritis and although not curative, they will help control pain when needed. It is important to consult with us in the use of NSAIDS as they do carry the risk of side effects including gastrointestinal and renal problems. The correct dosage and ongoing monitoring in the use of NSAIDS is essential.
There are other treatments which may be recommended in the treatment of osteoarthritis which may include:
- An injectable medication that contains Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium (Cartophen) which helps maintain joint health, including preserving joint cartilage that is damaged by the arthritic process, and stimulating the body’s production of cartilage and joint lubricant. It also stops the destructive enzymes that break down the cartilage.
- Nutraceuticals, such as Joint Guard, that contain glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), the essential building blocks for joints and cartilage, may also be of benefit. These are oral preparations that are added to your pet’s food or may be given as a treat.
In addition, we may also recommend physical therapies, cold or hot packs and baths, massage or acupuncture or stem cell therapy.
If you have any questions regarding osteoarthritis in your pet, give us a call on 65835677.