Joint inflammation affects all sorts of pets at all ages. Common in elderly pets but also seen in pets that have had a trauma or infection affecting the joint, and in animals suffering degenerative, dysplasia or developmental disorders.
Signs of arthritis can be subtle and unfortunately often symptoms go un noticed with pet owners putting it down to the pet just 'slowing down' rather than having a real medical condition that needs to be treated.
Owners may notice their pet getting slow to rise especially in the morning or reluctant to jump or walk up stairs, cats symptoms are even more subtle and can be as simple as not wanting to jump up on a bench.
Once the vet has confirmed the arthritis diagnosis, there are many things that can be done to improve your pets quality of life and allow them to grow old gracefully.
Osteoarthritis can only be managed, not cured. Having said that, adopting a multimodal approach to management can help relieve pain and restore quality of life.
The 6 keys to management are:
- Polysulfate sodium injections
- Dietary chondroitin supplements
Excessive weight increase the biomechanical stress on joints. Therefore control of obesity is an important factor in preventing and treating osteoarthritis.
The benefits of weight loss in dogs have been demonstrated in several studies. Even a modest weight loss of (5-10%) can reduce lameness in dogs.
Low impact exercise, such as lead walking and swimming, in short bursts provides positive physiotherapy, improves wellbeing, and encourages endorphin release. Not only do endorphins help mental health they also have an anti-inflammatory effect and, of course exercise helps control weight gain.
Exercise should be tailored according to the severity of disease. Over-strenuous, high impact exercise should be avoided.
Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the analgesia of choice in dogs.
The choice for cats is more limited because there are much less NSAIDs approved for cats.
Like most medications anti-inflammatory analgesia's can have side affects and contradictions so veterinarian prescription and monitoring is crucial.
DO NOT give you pet human medication as they can be very dangerous and fatal to animals.
Polysulfate sodium injections
A series of injection can be given to help build up joint fluid, aiding in the lubrication and padding of the joint.
These injections help slow down the enzymes responsible for degeneration, and can be used in conjunction with other medications.
Dietary chondroitin supplements
Nutraceuticals that support joint function and help reduce inflammation are effective in complementing other treatments and can help slow down the degeneration process in inflamed joints.
Commonly used nutrceuticals include Glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate and green-lipped muscles.
Surgery is generally reserved for more severe disease when medical treatment and other options have failed. When the problem is secondary to the condition such as hip or elbow dysplasia, surgery should be considered.
Arthroscopy is the standard of surgical care for evaluation of joints.