Arthritis does not just affect humans- our pets can suffer from it too. As the summer ends and Autumn / Winter begins, pain from arthritis often worsens.
The most common type of arthritis affecting dogs and cats is osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative condition that results in erosion of the joint cartilage,leading to reduced range of movement and pain from affected joints.
The condition can develop at any age, most commonly in older animals due to simple wear and tear, but also in younger animals as a result of injury or inherited problems.
The most common joints involved are the hips, elbows, knees, shoulders and wrists.
The most common symptom in older animals is a general slowing down, and stiffness particularly after resting.
It can be very difficult to determine if your pet is in pain because they seldom complain and adapt their lifestyle to compensate and hide the disease.
The following ways are often used to identify pain
- Difficulty rising especially after resting
- Reluctance to go for normal exercise routine/ tiredness
- Cats may not climb or jump onto furniture
- Overgrooming their limbs/ affected joints
It is important that your veterinary surgeon assesses your pets condition as other diseases may cause or contribute to the above changes. Additional tests are sometimes carried out to rule out other diseases, and to assess the safety of some of the drugs used in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Obesity can cause and exacerbate arthritis, approximately 25% of overweight dogs have arthritis. It is important that weight is controlled and often on its own can improve the quality of life of your pet.
Exercise for arthritic dogs should be little and often preferably not on hard surfaces to prevent excessive jarring of the affected joints. Hydrotherapy is a valuable tool in management, as non weight bearing exercise is carried out and joint flexibility is dramatically improved.
Occasionally surgery may be necessary for painful joints that cannot be managed by any other means- arthrodesis where the joint is permanently fused to stop pain, joint replacement eg hip replacement to restore pain free movement, and arthroscopy to correct cartilage abnormalities.
Drugs can be used to control pain, in cats and dogs,and where correctly used may provide immediate improvements.
Often a short trial on anti inflammatory drugs in a dog or cat with arthritis, produces improvement that helps owners realise that their pet is suffering from pain.
Many new pain relieving drugs are available for use in dogs and cats, that are extremely safe even for long term usage.Joint supplements are available, which can reduce pain in animals, and can reverse some of the changes associated with arthritis, and theses supplements include specialised diets, essential fatty acids, glucosamine,hyaluronic acid and fish oils.
Keys Steps in Arthritis care
- Early diagnosis
- Regular gentle exercise
- Prevention and treatment of obesity
- Regular veterinary check ups
- Pain medication/ joint supplements