Arthritis – Not just a senior pet’s disease

By Kellie Tickner, Orchard Hills Veterinary Hospital Administrator

As winter temperature arrive, we often see an increase in arthritis cases in both young and old pets. One in five dogs suffers from the pain and disability caused by arthritis. Cats can also suffer from the damaging effects of this condition and may have difficulty grooming themselves or going to the toilet.

Arthritis is one of the most common conditions affecting dogs but as pets are unable to communicate their pain, the early signs of this illness are often missed or simply attributed to old age. Yet arthritis is a chronic, painful, degenerative condition that can develop gradually over time, affecting one or more joints (typically the hips, knees and elbows) and causing much inflammation and pain.

Arthritis is not limited to certain breeds and it can affect any pet at any age. It can influence a pet’s quality of life and prevent it from enjoying simple, daily activities such as walking, running or playing.

Signs that a pet may be suffering from arthritis
• reluctance to walk or play
• limping
• stiffness of joints in the morning or after a sleep
• licking or biting of joints
• difficulty in rising from a resting position
• difficulty in climbing stairs
• change in personality – less happy and playful or sometimes aggressive and irritable

Managing Arthritis – Arthritis cannot be cured.  The key to controlling the pain associated with arthritis is managing the inflammation within the joints.  The added benefit to this is that with proper management, progression can be slowed.
• Weight control is extremely important when managing the symptoms and minimising the progression of arthritis. Excess weight will put additional pressure on already affected joints. 
• Walking and swimming are the best forms of exercise for dogs with arthritis. 
• Omega 3 fatty acids help block the inflammation around joints that causes pain. They also suppress the activity of an enzyme that causes cartilage damage, thus slowing the progression of arthritis. 
• Joint cartilage protective medications aim to increase joint fluid production & increase blood supply to joint surfaces.  The use of polysulphate injections have been proven to slow the progression of arthritis and help control the pain associated with the disease. Anti-inflammatory medications can also be used to help control the pain associated with arthritis
• Newly available injections for both dogs and cats for cats are proving to be highly beneficial in treating the pain of arthritis. These products are a monoclonal antibody that is injected under the skin and targets a protein that stimulates pain in arthritic patients.
• Neutraceuticals such as Green Lipped Mussel have also shown good results in assisting dogs with arthritis. These products contain chondroitin and or glucosamine which are the ‘building blocks’ of cartilage. 
• There are many prescription joint diets for both dogs and cats that have been shown to assist in alleviating the discomfort and improving the workings of diseased joints. 

To have your pet  assessed for arthritis contact Orchard Hills Veterinary Hospital on 4731 3055.