What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease condition. The cartilage becomes worn down and roughened resulting in pain and discomfort. This can be caused by many factors including old age, excess weight, injuries and breed disposition. The symptoms of arthritis can be:
- Pain or stiffness when getting up or down
- Reluctance to jump or go up or down stairs
- Slowing down or lagging behind on walks
- Licking of joints
- Sleeping more than usual especially with cats.
- Painful or sensitive to touch
In early cases, stiffness and soreness may sometimes be noticed intermittently but this may become more obvious and long term as the condition progresses.
Like humans, there is no one “fix” for arthritis in animals and appropriate treatment needs to be tailored to each individual patient. If you are concerned that your pet has arthritis, please make a booking for your pet to have a check up. It is important that a health check is undertaken before any medication is commenced in case there are other conditions which may produce similar signs.
Treatment involves providing good quality of life for the patients and to ensure they are pain free. It can involve a variety of treatments and sometimes these can be used in combination.
Weight loss. Overweight animals are more likely to suffer from arthritis due to the excess stress on the joints. Your vet may be able to help design a weight loss program which should help alleviate such stresses on the joints.
Anti inflammatory medication. These medications do help provide pain relief but may not be suitable for all animals especially if they are required to be given long term. Risks associated with such medication can include gastrointestinal problems, kidney or liver problems.
Pentosan polysulphate. This is a drug which initially requires a course of injections which are given weekly for four weeks and then followed by injections which can be 1-6 months plus apart depending on the patient’s response. Amongst its actions, the drug acts at the level of the joint itself to help repair cartilage damage, increase joint fluid which provides better lubrication in the joints, and increase blood supply which aids in healing. It also provides some anti inflammatory effects as well. We have seen some excellent responses from dogs which have received this drug but be aware not all responses will be the same. It is not a medication which will have immediate results and many owners may not see a change until 2 to 3 weeks after starting the course.
Nutraceuticals. These are supplements which can be given to patients without the need for a prescription. They can contain marine extracts (such as green lip mussel extracts and shark cartilage) and many other compounds such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate, which work to improve and maintain joint health. These are often used in conjunction with some of the other treatments described above.