Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease characterized by pain and stiffness of the joints, among other debilitating symptoms. The cause of this joint disease is normally due to some type of damage to the affected joint, and can occur in any joint throughout the body. There are many different strategies you can use to help control this disease, but unfortunately it is irreversible. Treating symptoms early is the most helpful, and it can help reduce pain and inflammation in the joints.
Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that can affect both dogs and cats. It is caused when the normal cartilage, ‘cushion’s between the joints, becomes damaged. This damage can occur through many different factors, such as: injury, normal wear and tear, obesity or abnormal joint formation.
Cartilage normally covers the ends of bones and acts as a pillow in order to absorb any impact between them. If this layer is damaged, inflammation proceeds and eventually results in the breakdown of both the cartilage and bone. Once this damage occurs, it is unable to be reversed. The best thing to do is to keep a close eye on your pet for early signs of arthritis, including the sometimes subtle changes in your pet.
Some symptoms and signs that your pet might be developing arthritis may include:
-Limping or a change in the way in which he or she normally walks
-Difficulty getting up
-Difficulty climbing or jumping
-Licking or chewing at joints
-Pain when affected area is touched
-Avoiding play or long walks
-Difficulty in using the litter box (cats)
If you believe your pet exhibits some of these signs, then he or she may be developing arthritis. Arthritis is a chronic disease and is best to start treating in its earliest stages. By treating early, your pet will be more comfortable and you may actually slow the progression of the disease. Most veterinarians will be able to provide your pet with pain relief through prescription medication, as well as supplementation to help support healthy joint function.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORIES: Prescription medications to aid your arthritic pet usually involve anti-inflammatories which help to reduce inflammation and therefore possibly prevent further damage to joints. When inflammation is reduced, pain is also decreased and your pet can return to feeling normal once again. These medications are usually well tolerated in pets, but to help minimize side effects and keep your pet at an appropriate dose, your vet will usually recommend blood work every so often.
PAIN MEDICATION: If anti-inflammatories aren’t effective, or for animals such as cats who cannot tolerate them over long periods of time, your vet will sometimes prescribe other pain medications. These medications do not help with inflammation, but work to relieve pain.
CORTICOSTEROIDS: These hormones help inhibit inflammation and provide relief from any inflammatory reaction throughout the entire body, including joints. These medications do have some undesired side effects though, and long term use is not advisable.
GLUCOSAMINE/CHONDROITIN: On top of prescription medications, your vet will normally also recommend a supplement to help support the joints. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are common because they are natural and have multiple benefits. They help support the cartilage structure, prevent inflammation and further breakdown of the joint, and help reduce damage due to free radicals.
Other factors that can also influence the joints are, weight control and exercise. Massage, use of Omega 3 fatty acids and injections of chondroprotectants can also be beneficial.
WEIGHT CONTROL: Carrying around extra weight will put more pressure on the already painful joints. Speak with your Vet or contact the Lansdowne Animal Hospital if you would like to put your pet on a healthy weight control or diet plan. We will recommend a food for your pet, provide weigh-ins, as well as keep a complete history of weight changes on file for you.
EXERCISE: This helps prevent stiffness and keeps up strength, it is important for your pet to keep exercising. For arthritic pets, low impact exercise is best. Swimming or any type of movement in the water is the best type of low impact exercise. Leash controlled walking or jogging are also okay for animals with joint issues. Through proper exercise, your pet can maintain the muscle mass needed to support the affected joint(s).
MASSAGE: Massage can provide additional pain relief benefits to your pet. Additional benefits include a reduction in muscle tension, as well as a perfect opportunity to bond with your pet!
‘CHONDROPROTECTIVE’ INJECTIONS: Injections of substances called ‘chondroprotective’ agents help to slow the breakdown of cartilage within the joints, as well as preventing inflammation. The result is improved mobility and decreased pain.
OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS– using this supplement has been known to help reduce inflammation, but it does take time to build up to adequate amounts within the body. It is a dietary fat that can be bought from your vet clinic and added directly to your pet’s food.
Because osteoarthritis is a disease which worsens over t ime, it is best to catch and treat symptoms in the earliest of stages. Since this disease is characterized by pain and stiffness of the joints, your pet should be seen by a veterinarian who can prescribe appropriate medications and supplements. On top of prescriptions, there are also several other tips which you can utilize in order to make your pet as comfortable as possible. Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions on this disease, or if you would like us to make an appointment for your pet.