What is Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis (arthritis) is a condition involving the degeneration of the joints where cartilage loses its ability to act as a shock absorber and the fluid in the joint becomes thicker, making it more difficult to move through. Although arthritis in pets is more common in older animals, there are other factors that put your pet at risk of developing arthritis. Picking up on risk factors early means your vet can put a management plan in place to delay the onset and ease the symptoms. Often your pet will be asymptomatic (not show symptoms) until the later stages of disease progression.
• Joint trauma or surgery – misaligned joints, such as hip or elbow, dysplasia put added pressure on cartilage causing it to deteriorate sooner.
• Genetic predisposition – certain breeds, such as Labradors and German Shepherds, are genetically predisposed to this condition
• Excess weight – carrying extra weight puts excess stress on the joints causing arthritic changes to occur earlier on
• Age – general wear and tear of the joints will also develop arthritis.
• High impact exercise- dogs partaking in activities, such as jumping and running, can be at a higher risk for developing arthritis earlier on in life
Common Symptoms of Arthritis in Pets
• Reluctance or reduced tolerance to exercise
• Difficulty rising from rest
• Licking joints
• Reduced quality of life
• Limping or stiffness
• Behaviour changes
• Difficulty climbing stairs
• Reduced energy
Arthritis Management Options
1. Regular Check-ups
As part of your annual health check, your vet will check the range of movement in the joints most commonly affected by arthritis. X-rays are also an option as they can provide a clearer picture of disease progression. As your pet ages, it is important they undergo a check every six months.
2. Diet or Supplements
Your vet may recommend a specially formulated diet or supplement to support the metabolism of healthy joints. These foods or supplements have a high fish oil content, which acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, whilst also providing a complete and balanced diet (food) or supportive nutrients to joints (supplement).
3. Disease Modifying Osteoarthritis Drug (DMOAD)
DMOADS have been proven very effective in managing arthritis. A few major benefits are listed below:
• Targeting synovial joints
• Improve blood flow and therefore nutrient uptake in the joints
• Decreasing inflammation
• Speeding up the metabolism of cartilage
All assist to help delay the onset of the disease if used proactively or alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life in the later stages of the disease.
4. Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s)
As the name suggests, this drug will help alleviate the most obvious of arthritic symptoms – inflammation and pain. It plays a vital role in alleviating pain and improving the quality of life.
5. Bedding and Environmental Changes
Warm, supportive comfortable bedding will allow better circulation to the joints, alleviating some of the stiffness when your pet rises from rest. Memory foam and/or heated beds are most effective. Changes to the environment, such as a ramp where you have stairs or lifting your dog into the car, will make an arthritic dog’s life slightly more comfortable.
It is important to stay active, so low impact exercise such as easy walks or swimming are strongly recommended. Avoid high impact activities, such as jumping, chasing balls and any games that involve a lot of twisting and turning.
7. Complimentary Therapies
Alongside conventional medicine, these therapies may also help alleviate your pets symptoms; Acupuncture, Massage, Hydrotherapy.