Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease resulting in cartilage damage, bone formation and fibrosis. It is usually a disorder of aging animals but it can also start early in pets with underlying conditions such as hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament injuries, luxating patella or elbow dysplasia.
Pets suffering from arthritis often show signs of intermittent lameness and stiffness. They can also experience difficulty rising, climbing the stairs or jumping into the car. Occasionally we can notice changes in their behaviour and they might become reluctant to walk, play and exercise. The symptoms are usually worse after a period of exercise or after lying down for a while. Cold temperature can also exacerbate the pain associated with arthritis.
Usually a good physical examination will reveal changes associated with osteoarthritis such as lameness, stiff gait, painful and swollen joints, fibrosis, reduced range of motion and crepitus. Radiographs under general anaesthesia should be performed to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions which may cause similar symptoms.
Many dogs suffering from arthritis are also overweight. The extra kilos create more stress and pressure on the joints, worsening the pain and signs of arthritis. Weight loss is usually associated with diminished pain and increased general function and wellbeing. If your animal is overweight, we recommend a consultation with our weight loss clinic.
Over exercising pets with arthritis can make them stiff and sore but moderate and regular exercise is important. It maintains joint mobility, muscle strength and joint support. Swimming appears to be a very good exercise as it helps developing muscles strength without increasing joint load. Nice gentle walking is also a very good exercise for you and your pet! At all times avoid high impact activities such as running, jumping and playing with other dogs. Always try to limit the exercise to a level that minimises aggravation of clinical signs. If your dog likes swimming, hydrotherapy and heated indoor swimming pools are now available.
Soft and warm bed
Especially during cold winter nights try to keep your pet inside in a nice soft bed with warm blankets. Warm heat pad and massages can also help.
Supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, shark’s cartilage, fish oil and green lipped mussels are all thought to help. We highly recommend Shasha’s blend, a combination powder to sprinkle on the food. Dogs usually love it!
A course of injections under the skin can be given over a four week period. If the response is favourable, booster injections are given according to each individual need. This contains pentosan polysulfate which is proven to increase the lubrication of the joint fluid and aid in repair and recovery of cartilage.
Many dogs benefit greatly from the pain relief of anti-inflammatory medication. We usually recommend Metacam or Previcox which are specially formulated for long term use in dogs.
Commercially available foods such as Royal Canine Mobility and Hills J/D are now available. They contain high levels of glucosamine, chondroitin and omega 3 fatty acids. They also have a controlled calorie content preventing weight gain and obesity. Studies have shown that it can delay the need for medication in milder cases and it can significantly reduce the dosage and amount of drugs needed.
Physiotherapy and acupuncture
Physiotherapy can improve your pet’s quality of life reducing the pain associated with arthritis, improving muscle strength and joint mobility. Different techniques are available such as soft tissue or joint mobilisation, neurological and proprioceptive techniques, electrotherapy, acupressure, hydrotherapy, thermotherapy, massages, acupuncture and individual rehabilitation programs.