What is dog and cat arthritis?
Arthritis (also known as osteoarthritis) is a chronic degenerative disease that may affect any joint but is commonly found in a pet’s hip, elbow, shoulder, stifle (knee) , carpus (wrist), hock (ankle) or intervertebral joints (in the spine). It occurs when cartilage in the joint is damaged, either following a traumatic event or with wear and tear that increases in athletic animals, obese animals, or when the joint is congenitally abnormal.
Cartilage decreases joint stress by reducing impact on the ends of the bones in joints, like a gelatinous shock absorber. When cartilage is damaged, a cascade of inflammatory changes occurs, eventually leading to destruction of the cartilage and subsequent damage to the underlying bone. Cartilage contains no nerves – if your pet is showing any signs of pain, the damage and changes in underlying bone have already begun.
Signs of dog and cat arthritis include:
Reluctance to take walks of usual length
Stiffness (that may disappear once the pet has ‘warmed up’)
Difficulty climbing stairs, climbing in the car, on the bed or a sofa
Difficulty rising from rest
Licking of a single joint
Acting withdrawn, spending less time playing with family (which is often misunderstood as a sign of ‘aging’)
Soreness when touched
Rarely, aggression when touched or approached
What can I do to manage cat and dog arthritis?
- Weight Reduction: Ask your doctor about your pet’s body condition score (BCS), which should be normal (5/9) or slightly underweight (4/9). If your pet is overweight, discuss a weight loss diet with your veterinarian.
- Controlled Exercise: Low-impact exercise is best; swimming or walking through shallow water is ideal. Leash walking and controlled jogging are also acceptable.
- Nutraceuticals: Synergistic combinations of nutraceuticals such as glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate contain compounds that support cartilage structure, prevent further deterioration, suppress inflammation, and reduce free radical damage.
- Injectable Chondroprotective Agent: Talk to your veterinarian about an injectable agent that may also help preserve cartilage in the joints.
- Acupuncture and Massage: Both of these therapies may provide additional non-drug pain control.
- Prescription Drugs: Drugs are available that can reduce inflammation and suppress pain in dogs with more advanced disease. Side effects can be minimized by monitoring your dog’s blood work regularly.