Arthritis is a common inflammatory joint condition which affects dogs, cats and people. It is a degenerative condition commonly caused by aging, but can also occur in younger pets due to joint injury or poor joint formation. Common symptoms of arthritis include pain, lameness, swelling and stiffness of the joint. More subtle signs in the dog can include reduced exercise, grumpiness or reluctance to jump into the car or use stairs. Affected cats may be less likely to groom themselves and may be grumpy when held or patted. They may avoid jumping onto high places such as benches or tables and may even have trouble using the litter tray.
Diagnosis of arthritis involves a thorough physical examination by your Veterinarian to evaluate the affected joint for signs of pain, swelling or reduced range of movement. X-rays are useful for showing changes in the joint, such as bony growth or cartilage damage.
Treatments are dependent on the severity of the arthritis and the underlying cause. Surgery should be the first choice in treating any underlying deformity, such as hip or elbow dysplasia or correcting any injuries, such as cruciate rupture. Anti-inflammatories are the most useful medication to help control the pain and inflammation associated with the condition, but can have some serious side effects. Products such as glucosamine and pentosan (Zydax) promote healthy cartilage growth, increase joint fluid and minimise inflammation. Glucosamine is added to regular food as a powder while Pentosan is administered as a series of 4 weekly injections. Both of these products provide significant benefits with minimal side effects.
Weight is also an important factor in the management of arthritis, as obesity will put unnecessary stress on joints. Exercise should carefully regulated, and should focus on low impact options such as swimming.
Arthritis in pets does not need to be a debilitating ailment. With care, and a little help from your veterinarian, it can be detected, treated and managed.