Does my pet have arthritis and what can I do?

What is osteoarthritis? 

Osteoarthritis is an irreversible, degenerative and progressive condition of joints. It is characterised by progressive loss of joint cartilage, bony growths within the joints and thickening of the connective tissue around the joint.

Arthritis can be further classified as either primary or secondary. Primary arthritis is associated with aging, whereas secondary arthritis is associated with a previous event or force that damaged the joint cartilage such as trauma or genetic malformations. Both dogs and cats can be affected, although the clinical signs in cats may be more subtle.  

How do I know if my pet has osteoarthritis? 

Arthritic joints are painful and uncomfortable. Some signs to look out for include difficulty rising, limping after exercise, difficulty jumping, walking with stiff legs, difficulty climbing stairs and lagging on walks. In cats the signs may be more subtle and may include overgrooming/undergrooming, wanting to hide, or changes in behaviour. Cold weather often increases the severity of the clinical signs.  

Can osteoarthritis be treated? 

There is unfortunately no cure for arthritis. The goal of treatment is to alleviate the animal’s discomfort and to minimise further degeneration changes to the joint. A multi-modal approach to treatment is recommended and usually includes the following:  

  • Management of weight: maintaining an ideal weight is a key factor in managing osteoarthritis as excess weight places increased stress on joints and muscles. Animals that are overweight are also less active and this leads to further weight gain.  
  • Exercise: low impact exercise should be encouraged for patients with arthritis.  
  • Joint supplements also known as chondroprotective agents which support cartilage and have anti-inflammatory effects. 
  • Environment modification including ramps, soft bedding etc. 
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents. 
  • Analgesics to alleviate pain.  
  • Alternative therapies including acupuncture, hydrotherapy etc.  

If you are concerned that your pet may have arthritis, please book a consultation with one of our friendly vets. Your vet will take a thorough history, perform a full clinical examination, suggest appropriate further diagnostics if required and work with you to develop a treatment plan for your pet to ensure they remain happy and healthy.

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