Arthritis is the medical term used for inflammation of the joints. It is one of the most common ailments suffered by our canine friends and also cats. Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease is a progressive and permanent disease where the cartilage between the bones wears away and becomes rough. Sometimes the cartilage deteriorates so badly that the bones will rub together. Although it more commonly affects middle aged to older animals, younger animals can still be affected, particularly those that have suffered from an injury or are genetically predisposed.
What may begin as slight discomfort can soon develop into a very painful and debilitating illness. This is why knowing the symptoms and providing early treatment are essential to managing arthritis. Symptoms of arthritis may include:
- Limping or favouring one leg
- Stiffness or difficulty moving, generally worse in the morning or after a nap
- Lethargy or tiredness
- Muscle atrophy or wasting of the muscles
- Licking, chewing or biting an area – this can be due to it being painful
- Reluctance or inability to jump up or down on beds, couches, benches or tables (cats) or difficulty moving up or down stairs.
The diagnosis of arthritis involves a thorough physical examination by a veterinarian. They will examine and evaluate the affected joint/s for signs of pain, swelling or reduced range of movement. X-rays are useful for showing changes in the joint, such as bony growth or cartilage damage.
The Treatment of arthritis is dependent on the severity of the arthritis and the underlying cause. Although arthritis is not curable early diagnosis and appropriate management can slow the progression and ease the symptoms. There are a few things that you can do for your pets to help ease the pain and manage arthritis.
- Provide a comfortable padded bed for them to sleep on
- Use special mobility aids like ramps to get up stairs or onto furniture and for getting in and out of the car.
- Weight control or reduction is very important – try to keep them within a healthy weight range to reduce additional stress on joints.
- Regular exercise, where possible – either short walks or swimming
- Keep them warm, with blankets, heat pads or coats
- Alternative therapies like acupuncture or massage
- There are also a number of supplements that are beneficial to pets suffering arthritis and medications that your veterinarian can prescribe and/or administer.
Supplements and Medications
There are many joint supplements available that can aid in both the prevention and management of arthritis. Arthritis supplements are not painkillers, but they do help to reduce the severity of the arthritic symptoms.
Some products like 4CYTE and Sashas Blend, contain glucosamine and chondroitin. These help arthritis management by increasing the supply of the “building blocks” for healthy cartilage. Joint Guard also contains MSM (Methyl sulphonyl methane) which helps maintain flexibility and elasticity of body tissues and can provide pain relief. Omega 3 Oil Supplements in the diet can have an anti-inflammatory effect for arthritis and also allergic dermatitis. Other products including Rose Hip Vital and Turmeric are all natural anti-inflammatories that can help reduce arthritic pain.
Your veterinarian is also able to prescribe medication for your pet to help manage arthritis. Anti-inflammatories or corticosteroid medications may be given to help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. There are also some injectable medications, that your vet can administer to promote cartilage repair and protection.
Although it can be a terrible and painful illness the correct management of arthritis can ensure that your pet can live a happy and healthy full life. If you have any concerns or questions or want to have your pets arthritis diagnosed please contact your veterinarian.
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Originally published in myPET Magazine Issue 18 Autumn/Winter 2019.
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