What is Arthritis?

Arthritis or osteoarthritis is characterized by pain and inflammation in the joints. It is caused by a breakdown of the cartilage that protects the bones in the joint area. Without the cushioning the cartilage provides, bones rub against each other causing painful wear and tear. Arthritis is more common in older pets and large breeds of dogs but can occur in any breed and even in younger dogs and cats.

What Are the Symptoms of Arthritis?

Symptoms can vary from pet to pet because animals respond to pain in different ways. Some pets are more stoic than others, or more likely to hide their pain. Cats are particularly good at hiding pain. If you notice changes in behavior or routine, especially in older animals, it could be a response to pain from arthritis.

Here are some of the more common symptoms of arthritis in dogs and cats:

  • walking stiffly
  • limping or favoring certain limbs
  • seeming painful to touch in certain areas
  • hesitance to engage in activities, jump up like before or use stairs
  • pet seems restless or has trouble getting comfortable
  • joints look or feel stiff or swollen
  • decrease in activity or appetite
  • behavior changes
  • urinating or defecating in the house or outside of the litter box
  • not grooming self or appearing unkempt in cats

Can Arthritis Be Prevented?

Arthritis can not always be prevented. Some pets are predisposed to arthritis because of genetics or former injuries. There are things you can do to decrease your pet’s chances of developing arthritis or to lessen the damage and pain if they do develop arthritis. Proper nutrition and exercise can help. Keeping your pet from becoming obese will lessen the strain on the joints. Dietary supplements, such as glucosamine and certain whole food supplements, can be useful for pets prone to arthritis. For these pets, regular exercise that is low impact and not overly taxing can help keep extra weight off and improve well-being.

How Is Arthritis Diagnosed and Treated?

If you suspect that your pet has arthritis, you’ll need to make an appointment with your veterinarian. It is important not to try and treat your dog or cat with people’s medications. Many medications that are safe for people can make your pet ill, in some cases even causing death! At the appointment, the veterinarian will usually want to take bloodwork and X-rays, in addition to examining your pet. The X-rays will show what joints are affected by arthritis and how severe the inflammation and cartilage loss are in those areas. The bloodwork is to make sure the pet is healthy enough to receive NSAIDs (a common type of pain medication). NSAIDs, or Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, are filtered through the liver and kidneys. If those organs are not working optimally NSAIDs can cause severe health problems. The other reason bloodwork is usually performed is that it’s impossible to get a full picture of an animal’s health simply by looking at it. A dog or cat can’t describe how something hurts, we just see the evidence that they are painful. So until bloodwork is checked it can’t be known that the pain is not caused by an infection or illness.

Once the doctor has the results from the bloodwork and x-rays, along with some history of your pet’s symptoms, and an examination- we can start to focus on how to get your pet feeling better. Arthritis can not be cured, but we do have a range of options to improve your pet’s quality of life. Many of the preventative techniques listed above can be used in conjunction with pain medications and/or laser therapy. Not every arthritis case is the same, so we offer a range of treatments for your pet. They include the following:

SUPPLEMENTS: Examples include Lubrisyn and Glycoflex 3. These are nutritional supplements to support joint health by helping increase strength and maintain joint comfort.

NSAIDS: xamples include Rimadyl and Deracoxib. These are very effective medications for
managing pain and inflammation. Periodic bloodwork is recommended when using this type of medication. They are not the best option for dogs with liver or kidney issues, and you should talk to your vet before giving these medications to dogs with gastrointestinal issues.

WHOLE FOOD SUPPLEMENTS: examples are Canine Musculoskeletal Support and Ligaplex. We recommend supplements from Standard Process. They make several to help with pain and inflammation and to support joint health.

LASER THERAPY: ur therapy laser can reduce pain and inflammation in arthritic dogs and cats. Treatments are quick, painless, and affordable. Laser therapy can be used in conjunction with other medications and supplements or as a stand-alone treatment.

VOM: Veterinary orthopedic manipulation is a gentle healing technique that seeks to restore appropriate body function. It is similar to chiropractic, but there are some key differences. VOM is performed only with the use of a hand-held device called an activator and also incorporates laser therapy. Dr. Roberts offers these treatments in our office on Tuesday mornings.

These treatments are generally our first line of defense against arthritis pain, but we do have additional treatments available for severe cases. Our goal is to keep your pet comfortable! If you have a pet struggling with possible arthritis pain, please make an appointment or reach out for more details.