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Arthritis By Vet Alan Wilkinson-Mackie

A large number of dogs, and an increasing number of cats, are diagnosed with arthritis. Arthritis means an inflammation of the joints, and animals with arthritis suffer with pain and stiffness in their joints. Arthritis is typically a problem in older pets.

What is Arthritis?

In the normal joint the bone surfaces are covered with a thin layer of smooth cartilage. This is lubricated with joint fluid,   allowing the two surfaces of the joint to glide freely over one another. In animals with arthritis the cartilage of the joint     degenerates and becomes damaged and thinned. The bone surfaces can rub together causing discomfort – this causes further damage to the cartilage. New bone forms and this limits joint movement. Arthritis may affect one or more joints.

What are the causes?

  • Instability of the joints e.g. hip dyplasia
  • Damage to the developing cartilage.
  • Damage caused by trauma e.g. Cranial cruciate disease or severe sprain.

How would I know if my dog has arthritis?

They may not be as keen to get up and go for a walk. They may limp or seem to be stiff. Cold and damp weather can make this more noticeable. Dogs will sometimes lick at the sore joint. They may have trouble getting up and down stairs. These signs can be very obvious, while other pets may just become quieter or more grumpy if they are sore.

Your vet may suspect arthritis from the signs you describe. By examining your pet, your vet can identify which joints are stiff or painful. Occasionally x-rays are required.

What is the Treatment?

  • Weight control is often an important start. Fat is extra weight but excess fat can also increase inflammation.
  • Joint Foods: Cartilage damage is such an important part of arthritis. Joint foods (or chondroprotectants/nutraceuticals) can help reduce the cartilage damage. There are several of these products and your vet is the best person to help you decide which one to use. Some can be added to food daily, others are injected weekly. There is also a     prescription diet that can be fed.
  • NSAIDS: These drugs are commonly prescribed for the management of arthritis as they have actions blocking inflammation and pain. These tend to be the drugs of first choice, due to their quick action. Some are safe for long term use.
  • Bedding: A thick soft warm bed and bedding. We have some great products in our showroom.

Once arthritis damages a joint it is unusual for it to repair. However, most pets can be managed pain free with the use of medication and managing further damage to the joints. Many pets cope well with arthritis and lead a full and active life.