Arthritis is a complex condition involving inflammation of one or more joints. There are many causes of arthritis in pets, but the most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (or bony arthritis), which is also known as degenerative joint disease.
Arthritis is one of the most common causes of chronic pain in dogs, and dogs that live with chronic pain become less fit, less playful and less mobile as the condition progresses. Until recently, degenerative joint disease was not well recognized as a problem in cats; recent studies conducted through veterinary colleges have shown that this problem affects a surprisingly large number of cats. Affected cats hide their symptoms well. Subtle indications that a cat has osteoarthritis include sleeping or resting more than in the past, reluctance to groom or to sharpen the claws, difficulty getting in or out of the litter box (or litter box “accidents” because of this difficulty), difficulty jumping up or down on the furniture, or irritability, especially when touched in tender areas.
Since dogs and cats instinctively hide symptoms of pain as a survival mechanism, the problem has likely been present for a long period of time before the pet shows obvious symptoms. This may be one reason why osteoarthritis is more often diagnosed in middle aged to older pets. However, if this condition is diagnosed and treated in its early stages, it is possible to decrease, delay or avoid the degeneration in the joints, thus improving the pet’s quality of life.
If the pet has an underlying orthopedic condition that may lead to secondary osteoarthritis, it is important to surgically correct this condition as soon as it is recognized in order to delay the development of degenerative joint disease. If surgical correction is not an option, medical management of degenerative joint disease must include gentle and controlled exercise, weight management, nutritional support and medications to control pain and discomfort.
Proper exercise will help to maintain mobility in the affected joints, and veterinary rehabilitation therapists can design specific programs tailored to the needs of the individual animal. Avoiding obesity by putting the pet onto a weight control diet will lessen the strain on the joints.
Certain nutritional supplements appear to provide benefits in controlling this disease and in delaying its progression. The use of Omega-3 fatty acids in veterinary medicine is growing in popularity, as is the use of nutraceuticals such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Small research studies and numerous anecdotal case histories suggest that these products are beneficial, and they are free of side effects when used appropriately.
There are commercially available veterinary products containing a combination of supplements designed to support joint function. Some of these products are formulated to be palatable to dogs and cats, thus making them easier to administer. However, pet owners should be aware that, unlike prescription drugs, supplements are not highly regulated. Therefore substantial differences in quality may exist between manufacturers and it is strongly recommended that you follow your veterinarian’s advice with regard to product recommendations.
Ongoing research into degenerative joint disease in cats and dogs has shown that nutrition can play a big role in the management of this disease. This has lead to the development of specific therapeutic diets that are formulated specifically for joint disease, and include optimal levels of nutrients plus supplements such as nutraceuticals, trace elements and vitamins. These diets are available only through your veterinarian.
If your pet is affected with osteoarthritis, your veterinarian can also provide you with handouts that relate specifically to your pet’s condition and the recommended treatments, including fatty acid supplements, glucosamine, chondroitin, and prescription medications. Don’t hesitate to call and book a consultation if you have any questions about arthritis or degenerative joint disease.
Caution: These news items, written by Lifelearn Inc., are licensed to this practice for the personal use of our clients. Any copying, printing or further distribution is prohibited without the express written permission of Lifelearn Inc. Please note that the news information presented here is NOT a substitute for a proper consultation and/or clinical examination of your pet by our clinic veterinarian.