Arthritis in Dogs & Cats
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a degenerative disease of the joint that usually results from chronic wear and tear. The degeneration of an arthritic joint results in stiffness as well as pain, significantly affecting a cat or dog's overall quality of life.
Is Arthritis Common in Dogs & Cats ?
Yes! In fact, arthritis is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs and cats later in their life. Unfortunately, owners often have trouble detecting the behavioural changes that affect pets suffering from arthritis, since it is a slowly progressive disease. Most owners simply feel that their furry companion is "aging", or "slowing down" when in fact they are sore.
What are the Signs of Arthritis?
The typical signs of arthritis are often subtle, and can include:
- difficulty getting up or lying down
- reluctance to go up or down stairs
- limping (often subtle)
- "slowing down"
- "getting older"
- slow progression of the above signs (i.e. slowly gets worse over time)
Diagnosis of Arthritis
Arthritis can be tricky to diagnose definitively. As a result, we use a variety of techniques.
X-rays are used to evaluate the joints for arthritis. Arthritic joints can appear roughened and deformed. X-rays aren't the whole story, though, as the level of degeneration on the x-ray doesn't always relate to the severity of the signs. In other words, a pet can have arthritis even if their joints look good on x-ray!
An orthopedic exam tests the function of each joint, looking at range of motion and the presence of pain. Orthopedic exams help us tell which joints are affected and let us track the progression over time.
What you tell us is often the best way to diagnose arthritis. Sometimes when a pet comes into the clinic, the excitement of being here causes the signs of arthritis to temporarily vanish. As a result, we rely on what you tell us about your pet to help form our diagnosis.
Treatments for Arthritis
The traditional treatment for arthritis involved the sole use of a Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (NSAID). These medications are readily available to people over-the-counter (e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen) and are used to alleviate any pain and/or inflammation.
Since NSAIDs can have side effects, especially if other diseases are present, we will often recommend that blood work be done before starting your pet on NSAIDs.
Don't Use Human NSAIDs!
Because of their effectiveness, human NSAIDs are frequently given to pets. However, due to differences between people and pets, this carries a risk of more serious side effects than are often seen in people. Veterinary approved NSAIDs such as meloxicam in the cat and dog, deracoxib, and carprofen are safer to give to dogs. Even with these drugs, pets should be monitored every 6-12 months with an examination and blood test to avoid/decrease side effects associated with other illnesses.
More recently, newer complementary treatments have evolved for addressing arthritis, that work along with NSAIDs.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
One of these complementary treatments is omega 3 fatty acids, which are commonly found in fish and flax seed oils. These fatty acids have natural anti-inflammatory effects if given at the correct dose, and can reduce the need / dose for NSAIDs
Diets that contain omega 3 fatty acids seem to have a better effect in helping dogs with arthritis than simply adding an omega 3 fatty acid supplement to a dog's regular diet. We stock diets containing omega 3 fatty acids specifically targeted to treating arthritic dogs.
Sasha's Blend is a powder , capsule or flexi chew that contains green lipped muscle. It is 100% pure and natural with no additives or fillers. The unique combination of marine concentrates in Sasha's Blend contain a wide range of nutrients that may be beneficial in relief of arthritic symptoms in dogs.
Sasha's Blend may be beneficial in maintaining normal function of joint tissue, promote joint mobility and enhance health and well being of dogs. It may also be used as a tonic for dogs that exercise heavily or are involved in high performance activities such as agility. Especially useful for dogs who suffer from arthritis, have joint injury or general wear and tear. It also provides an energy boost and conditions the overall body and coat.
Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation
Another complementary treatment that has been shown to reduce the effects of arthritis is pet rehabilitation and physiotherapy.
Physiotherapy has long been used in humans to help them recover from orthopedic surgery more quickly. It decreases the formation of scar tissue, helps improve limb function via improved mobility and eases the pain of joint disease by stretching tense muscles.
The benefits of rehabilitation are now being recognized in veterinary medicine, and are increasingly available for dogs. Rehabilitation is an effective complementary treatment for arthritis. A referral from us and a dedicated owner is all that is needed.
If you think your pet may be arthritic, or you would like more information about arthritis, please contact us for an appointment at 519-624-9760.