Arthritis involves painful, degenerative joint disease that results from excessive stress placed on joints, resulting in pain and inflammation. In most cases, the degree of arthritis is related to the age and size of the animal.
What causes arthritis?
The most common form of arthritis in animals is termed secondary arthritis which occurs as a result of joint instability that leads to damage of the subchondral bone that line the joints. Secondary arthritis is often termed osteoarthritis (OA) or degenerative joint disease (DJD). Common causes of secondary arthritis include hip dysplasia, obesity, cranial cruciate ligament rupture and luxating patella.
Clinical signs of arthritis
Owners may notice one or more of the following behaviours: Reluctance to walk, climb stairs, jump or play; Limping; Licking affected joints; Difficulty getting up; Yelping in pain when touched Change in personality e.g. resisting touch/patting.
Diagnosis of arthritis Determining that your pet has arthritis is often based on history and clinical examination. In some cases further investigation may be required, including X rays to help determine the extent and underlying causes.
How do we treat arthritis?
Treatment will depend on the cause of arthritis. Most cases of osteoarthritis can be controlled very effectively by treating the underlying disease. It is important to remember that it may not be possible to cure the underlying problem.
Surgical options may be necessary for problems such as luxating patella and ruptured cruciate ligament. There are advanced options for hip dysplasia including total hip replacement and triple pelvic osteotomy.
Osteoarthritis requires a life-time treatment program tailored around weight control, moderate exercise levels and active joint repair medication. Most joint repair medications are based on chrondroitin and glucosamine in various forms (dietary, injection, powder, capsules etc).
Analgesics such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used in the short-term to relieve the signs of osteoarthritis. It is important to select these medications with care since some dogs are more sensitive than others to the potential side-effects of analgesics. The most common side-effects of analgesics include decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea. Pre-medication blood tests may be performed to make sure that the pet can safely metabolize and eliminate the medication and then periodic blood tests may be necessary to ensure continued safe usage.
If you have any concerns or questions about the administration of any medication, please discuss them with your veterinarian.