Today is Arthritis Awareness Day.  Many of our pets suffer from arthritis, particularly if they are over the age of 8 years.  Arthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints, caused by wear-and-tear but it may be aggravated by previous injury to the joint or badly formed joints (e.g. hip dysplasia).

The joints most commonly affected are:

  • hips, knees and elbows in dogs
  • elbows and hips in cats
  • lower spine in rabbits

However, any joint can be affected.  Arthritis causes wear of the cartilage inside the joint which removes the smooth surface.  This causes inflammation of the bone and joint capsule, with small fragments of bone forming inside the joint.  The end result is stiffness and pain.

As a degenerative problem, there is no cure for arthritis, and the condition will progress; however the pain and disability caused can be significantly improved in various ways.

  • Weight loss is really important in the management of arthritis.  Keeping your pet on the lean side of ideal will reduce the stress on the joints significantly, reduce pain and reliance on medication.
  • Home adaptations can make a massive difference.  Stopping access to steps and stairs or providing alternatives such as ramps will reduce the strain on joints.  Slippery floors can cause significant discomfort to your pet so providing grippy surfaces such as carpet instead of tiles or laminate will improve their quality of life.
  • Pain relief is the main way of treating arthritis.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications relieve discomfort by reducing the inflammation in the joint.  In some cases, NSAIDs are not suitable, or are not sufficient on their own, in which case other pain relief medication can be added.  All medication must be given under the supervision of your vet and animals should be checked over by the vet at least every 6 months.
  • Complementary therapies such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy can all help to maintain mobility and reduce discomfort.  All of these should be done under veterinary supervision.
  • Diet or nutritional supplements – having a high Omega 3 : Omega 6 fatty acid ratio has been shown to reduce inflammation.  Many other supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin and turmeric have been advertised as having benefit but the evidence for this is poor.  Using a special joint diet is the best way of increasing the Omega 3:6 ratio.

If you think that your pet may have arthritis, please book an appointment for a visit to discuss the options.  The Canine Arthritis Management website has loads more information and their Facebook page is worth a follow.

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