Arthritis is the medical term used for inflammation of the joints and is one of the most common ailments suffered by our canine friends and also cats. Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease is a progressive and permanent disease. It is when the cartilage between the bones wears away and becomes rough. Sometimes the cartilage deteriorates so badly that the bones will rub together. Although it more commonly affects middle aged to older animals, younger animals can still be affected, particularly those that have suffered from an injury or are genetically predisposed.
What may begin as slight discomfort can soon develop into a very painful and debilitating illness. This is why knowing the symptoms and providing early treatment are essential to managing arthritis. Symptoms of arthritis may include:
- Limping or favouring one leg
- Stiffness or difficulty moving, generally worse in the morning or after a nap
- Lethargy or tiredness
- Muscle atrophy or wasting of the muscles
- Licking, chewing or biting an area – this can be due to it being painful
Although arthritis and degenerative joint disease are not curable, they are manageable. There are a few things that you can do for your pets to help ease the pain and manage arthritis.
- Provide a comfortable padded bed for them to sleep on
- Use special mobility aids like ramps to get up stairs or onto furniture and for getting in and out of the car.
- Weight control or reduction is very important – try to keep them within a healthy weight range to reduce additional stress on joints.
- Regular exercise, where possible – either short walks or swimming
- Keep them warm, with blankets or coats
- Alternative therapies like acupuncture or massage
- Give joint or arthritis supplements
- Use of medications prescribed by your veterinarian
There are many supplements available that promote good joint health and can aid in both the prevention and management of arthritis. Arthritis supplements are not painkillers, but they do help to reduce the severity of the arthritic symptoms. Many of these supplements, like PAW Osteosupport for Dogs and Sashas Blend contain naturally sourced Glucosamine & Chondroitin that work by repairing damaged cartilage and providing the elements needed for new healthy cartilage cells to be formed within the joints. Some supplements like Joint Guard also contain MSM (Methyl sulphonyl methane) which helps maintain flexibility and elasticity of body tissues and can provide pain relief as it is a natural anti-inflammatory. Other products like Rose Hip Vital are all natural anti-inflammatories that can help reduce arthritic pain. These joint supplements can take between 3-8 weeks of use before a change is noticed, which is why it is important to start administering them at the early signs of arthritis. Once started it is best that the supplements are continued for life as when they are stopped degeneration of the joints will begin again. You should always check with your veterinarian before starting any new treatments or supplements as they may interfere with current medications or any underlying health issue that your pet may have.
Your veterinarian is also able to prescribe medication for your pet to help manage arthritis. Anti-inflammatories or corticosteroid medications may be given to help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. There are also some injectable medications, that your vet can administer, that promote cartilage repair and protection.
Although it can be a terrible and painful illness the correct management of arthritis can ensure that your pet can live a happy and healthy full life. If you have any concerns or questions or want to have your pets arthritis diagnosed please contact your veterinarian.