Arthritis is a common inflammatory joint condition which affects dogs, cats and people. It is a degenerative condition commonly caused by ageing, 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. Some dogs are reluctant to get on beds or couches that they used to jump up on. Cooler weather can make symptoms more visible.
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 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.
Excess Weight is the most important factor in the management of arthritis long term as being overweight on an ongoing basis is very counterproductive. Obesity will put unnecessary stress on joints. Exercise should carefully regulated, and should focus on low impact options such as swimming or walking NOT “burning off energy chasing a ball”.
Omega 3 Oil Supplements in the diet can have an anti-inflammatory effect for arthritis and also allergic dermatitis. Fish oil supplements include using PAW fish oil (specifically designed for Dogs), human fish oil capsules or cod liver oil. Flax seed oil is a source of omega 3 oil but the quality and ratio of anti-inflammatory components is unfavourable compared to fish oil.
Joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin help arthritis management by increasing the supply available to the joints of the “building blocks” of healthy cartilage. The are many formulations for dogs including my favourites 4CTYE and Pernease powder which are based on green lipped mussel and abalone. Cats have less options but Seaflex bites are very palatable for most cats.
Zydax injections are a new generation of treatment for osteoarthritis. It helps treat and prevent arthritis. We use it after joint surgery to help prevent arthritis and in dogs with genetic diseases such as hip and elbow dysplasia. It is also helpful in managing animals with Osteoarthritis.
stimulates cartilage producing cells to produce new cartilage
slows cartilage destruction from enzymes produced in inflammation
stimulates synovial cells to produce lubricating joint fluid
helps prevent inflammation
improves blood flow and nutrition to joint tissues
Zydax is given in a course of 4 injections under the skin behind the neck to treat the whole body; one injection a week for 4 weeks. This is repeated every 3 months. Research has proven the benefits of these drugs are from regular use and an accumulative effect.
Other nutraceuticals including Rose Hip Vital and Turmeric are given by some people to their pets but there are not any actual studies using the dosages recommended to prove effectiveness. However some people swear by these products. My advice would be to use them in addition to the other treatments listed, not instead of. Because arthritis is a degenerative condition that can be not be reversed altogether I recommend using a multi-pronged approach using fish oil, joint supplement and Zydax injections to keep the joints as health and lubricated as possible, and oral anti-inflammatories/ pain killers as needed.
Anti-inflammatories are the most useful medication to help directly and quickly control the pain and
inflammation associated with the condition, but occasionally can have some serious side effects. For this reason we recommend regular routine checkups and blood/ urine monitoring of body functions which in some pet can change over time and mean medication or dosage adjustments need to be made.
Pain killers in the form of human drug like tramadol and gabapentin may be prescribed if the other methods of treatment are not working enough to maintain quality of life which is, at the end of the day, what it is all about.
Arthritis in pets does not need to be a debilitating ailment necessarily, at least we can slow it down, reduce pain and change the progression of the disease. With care, and a little help from The Bloomin’ Vet, it can be detected, treated and managed as best as possible, remembering it is a degenerative condition.