Many people believe arthritis is a strictly human condition, so it will probably surprise you to know that it is also a condition that affects a large number of household pets – including cats and dogs. In fact, veterinarians state that it is one of the most commonly-seen ailments in middle-aged to older pets. At College Park Pet Wellness Clinic, our experienced vets can help you find the most effective treatment to manage your pet’s arthritis.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is the name given to a condition whereby the joints that enable our bodies to move become inflamed, causing pain and stiffness. The inflammation may also affect the tendons and ligaments around the joint, which makes moving the affected area even more painful and difficult.
Symptoms of arthritis
In addition to pain and swelling around the joints, other symptoms of arthritis include tiredness, depression, irritability and flu-like symptoms such as a cough, sore throat or runny nose. You may also notice limping, refusing to move around as much, and licking, chewing or biting the areas of the body that are the most painful.
Is my pet at risk of developing arthritis?
It is not known exactly what causes arthritis, but problems with the autoimmune system are believed to be at least partly responsible. Nevertheless, there are some specific types and breeds of pets that are more likely to develop the condition.
Some of the key risk factors that increase your animal’s susceptibility to arthritis include:
- A genetic predisposition to the condition. For example, around 70% of certain breeds of dog, including Labradors and German Shepherds, will be affected by canine arthritis.
- Obesity places additional strain on the joints, making them more susceptible to developing arthritis.
- Joint abnormalities. If your pet suffers from joint problems, such as hip dysplasia, they are more likely to develop arthritis.
- Some infections can also affect the joints and contribute towards the development of arthritis – such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Treating arthritis in pets
As a caring and responsible owner, you will undoubtedly want to make sure that your pet is comfortable and happy for as long as possible. Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for arthritis, but there are a variety of medications and treatments that can help prevent it from becoming too painful or debilitating for your pet.
One of the most important things that you can do for your pet is to ensure that they maintain a healthy weight. Obesity not only increases the likelihood of your pet developing arthritis but if your pet is also suffering from the condition, additional weight will almost certainly make his symptoms significantly worse. We will be able to advise you on the best way to support your pet in losing weight healthily and safely.
At College Park Pet Wellness Clinic, we will suggest that you explore different medications to help alleviate your pet’s symptoms. Some of these could include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). These are designed to manage the inflammation that characterizes arthritis and can help loosen joints and make them easier to move.
- These are supplements added to your pet’s food designed to support healthy joint function. These tend to contain chondroitin and glucosamine, substances naturally found in your pet’s joint cartilage. These cartilage protectors, are designed to reduced cartilage damage and degeneration.
If your pet is suffering from severe inflammation and pain, we may suggest a course of steroid injections. These can reduce swelling and discomfort, and help your pet regain some mobility. However, they do come with a risk of some unpleasant side effects. We will discuss these with you if we think your pet will benefit from these treatments.
While prescription medications and nutritional supplements may be beneficial in helping alleviate your pet’s arthritis, but there is also a range of other non-surgical therapies available. These include hot/cold therapy, acupuncture, and physical therapy. Your vet will be able to talk you through which may be beneficial for your pet, and what therapies are available in your local area.
In extremely severe cases of pet arthritis, surgery may be the most viable treatment option. Although surgery cannot cure your animal’s condition, it can potentially improve the quality of his life. As with all surgery, however, there are risks involved, and these would be explained to you during your pet’s consultation appointment.
Some of the surgical treatment options for pet arthritis include:
- This is the most minimally-invasive joint surgery currently available and can help to repair joints such as the knees, ankles, elbows, and shoulders.
- Joint fusion. During this surgery, metal implants are used to fuse damaged joints together, providing greater stability for the patient. This can be a complex surgery with a long recovery period.
- Joint replacement. This is the most severe type of surgical treatment for arthritis. The surgery itself is complex, and you can expect your pet to take several months to recover. Nevertheless, this treatment does have a success rate of around 90%.
If you are concerned that your pet is suffering from arthritis, schedule an appointment at our office as soon as possible. We will be able to perform a thorough assessment of your animal and recommend the best treatment to help your pet feel as comfortable and pain-free as possible.