Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

Arthritis not only affects people, but our beloved furry friends too. In fact, arthritis affects one in every five adult dogs in the U.S. and is one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat. Although not as common, arthritis also affects our feline friends.

What exactly is arthritis? Osteoarthritis, a.k.a. degenerative joint disease or osteoarthrosis, is an irreversible, non inflammatory degenerative damage of the bones that make up joints. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but most often affects the hips.

Signs that your dog or cat may have arthritis: Unfortunately dogs and cats are not able to tell us when they hurt. It is important, therefore, to watch for non-verbal cues closely and take even subtle changes seriously. The following are signs that your pet may have arthritis:
         -Favoring a limb
         -Difficulty standing or sitting
         -Sleeping more
         -Seeming to have stiff or sore joints
         -Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
         -Weight gain
         -Decreased activity or less interest in play
         -Attitude or behavior changes

Management of Osteoarthritis: As osteoarthritis is an irreversible disease, the goals of therapy are not to cure the animal, but rather to control pain, increase mobility, slow the destructive process in the joint and encourage cartilage repair. The following are some ways to help minimize the aches and pains:

  Drug Therapy:
Fortunately, there are multiple options when it comes to drug therapy. Often times, drugs are used in combination with one another to provide better comfort. The following are some commonly used medications:
     -Non steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as Rimadyl and Meloxicam, can be used to help reduce inflammation in the joints.
     -Other pain medications, such as Tramadol and Gabapentin, can be used in conjunction with NSAIDs to alleviate pain and discomfort.
     -Chondroprotective agents, such as Adequan, Cosequin and Glyco-flex, work to protect cartilage as it attempts to repair itself.

Please do not give your dog or cat any pain medications without consultation with a veterinarian first. Many human anti-arthritis drugs can cause serious, even fatal, results in animals.

  Weight Management and Exercise: Drug therapy is most effective when combined with appropriate exercise and weight management. Weight control is probably the most important thing an owner can do to help their arthritic pet. Low impact exercises, such as swimming or walking, are good ways to keep an animal thin and may enhance the nutrition of the cartilage.

  Surgery: If medical management fails to reduce pain and improve function, surgical intervention may be an option. There is a wide variety of surgical corrections, alteration, replacements and salvage procedures that may be helpful in certain situations.

  Other Therapies: Physical therapy, acupuncture and special diets are some more good options for dogs and cats with osteoarthritis.

Should you believe your pet is suffering from arthritis or has been recently diagnosed, keep in mind that although this condition is irreversible there are many things that both you and Encina Veterinary Hospital’s staff of veterinarians can do to control pain/discomfort and slow the course of the disease, giving your pet a full and healthy life!

Nadia Rifat DVM