Arthritis means inflammation of a joint or joints. Osteoarthritis in pets is a long-standing degenerative disease that is unfortunately very common in older animals.
Where two bones meet and form a joint, the ends are covered with a smooth material called cartilage, which allows them to move smoothly and absorb stresses and strains. Osteoarthritis occurs when this cartilage in a joint is damaged, which can happen following an injury or as a result of excessive wear and tear in athletic or overweight animals.
When cartilage is worn away the bone underneath is not protected and damage starts to occur. There are no nerve endings in cartilage so the early signs can often go unnoticed. However, nerve endings in the bone, ligaments and joint capsule quickly become stimulated, making this a very painful condition.
The changes are unfortunately irreversible, so early treatment is critical to slow the progression of the disease. Signs of arthritis include:
- Stiffness, especially after a rest
- Difficulty climbing stairs or jumping in to the car, on to the bed or sofa – cats can be very good at hiding the pain of osteoarthritis and the only changes some owners notice is that their cat no longer jumps on to the top of high pieces of furniture
- Abnormal movement, such as limping
- Licking the skin over a joint or soreness when touched
- Acting withdrawn, spending less time playing with family (which is often misunderstood as a sign of ‘aging’)
- Other signs which can be seen in cats include a reluctance to climb through the cat flap to go outside, or to climb into a litter tray with high sides
Treatment of arthritis
Weight reduction and controlled exercise are two keys ways that can help to manage this condition in your pets. Swimming or walking through shallow water are good low-impact exercises for dogs with osteoarthritis.
There are particular diets such as the Royal Canin Mobility that can really improve the signs of arthritis. It contains both nutrients that help with the inflammation, including anti-oxidants, and helps with weight management.
One of the other things that can help are joint supplements of which there are a significant number available, many of which containing glucosamine which is a compound found in cartilage. The glucosamine can help to reduce inflammation and encourage healthy cartilage. A new glucosamine containing product (Dasuquin) has recently been launched which also contains Avocado/soya unsaponifiables (ASA’s). This combination appears to have an enhanced effect and should make your pet more comfortable, although please be patient as results may only really be demonstrated after 2-3 months of treatment. As with other nutraceuticals, it has a high safety profile.
Laser therapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and massage may also provide additional non-drug pain relief and be very appropriate in some cases. Greyfriars is an excellent centre for this in Surrey.
Often, the pain and stiffness associated with the joint inflammation can’t be managed well with the above options. In these cases we will often use painkillers, given on a daily basis, to make our pets much more comfortable and give them a better quality of life. There are many prescription drugs and treatments available but must be given under the close supervision of the vet to make them as safe as possible.
If you have any questions about osteoarthritis or any of the treatment options mentioned above, please feel free to contact the clinic for some advice. Call Teddington on 020 8977 3955, Shepperton on 01932 229 900 or Surbiton on 0208 390 5270.