Arthritis in Pets - what is it?
Like humans, Arthritis in pets is a disease of the joints that causes pain and limits movement and use of the affected limb(s). Arthritis may be suspected from the history, physical examination findings, known injuries or from radiographic (x-ray) findings. In its early stages, arthritis in animals is not debilitating, but as it progresses it can become severe enough to stop patients being able to stand or walk very far.
What Can We Do About Arthritis in Pets?
Thankfully, we have many tools to minimize the impact of arthritis in animals and slow its progression. These include:
Weight Control: Maintaining a healthy weight minimizes the workload of the joints and can help or relieve arthritis in animals:
- Overweight: moderate to severe – needs to lose weight urgently. Working through a diet plan and considering prescription weight loss diets with a vet is indicated
- Overweight: mild – need to work on losing weight. Weight loss strategies should be discussed with a vet
- Ideal weight: no changes needed.
- Underweight: need to add more weight to help maintain strong muscles to support the joints
Exercise: Animals with arthritis benefit from daily, low impact exercise, rather than intermittent exercise.
Avoid as much as possible:
- Bitumen for running
- Sand as much as possible (running or walking)
- Sharp turning activities (working livestock, chasing sticks/balls)
- Rough play
- For patients with elbow arthritis: swimming
Good exercises to help arthritis in animals includes:
- Walking (for high energy dogs who need to run, seek out softer surfaces such as grass)
- Swimming for dogs who are already confident and comfortable in the water
Cartrophen injections: Cartrophen helps protect the joint health, looking after the nutrition of the joints. It also has a mild anti-inflammatory effect in arthritic animals.
- Starting cartrophen: 1 injection weekly for 4 injections
- Ongoing cartrophen: 1 injection every 3 months.
Joint supplements: There are a wide range of joint supplements available to help look improve the joint’s health.
Supplements generally help by providing the building blocks needed to maintain healthy cartilage or through an anti-inflammatory action.
- 4Cyte for Canines: contains Green Lipped Mussel Extract, Shark Cartilage, Abalone and Epiitalis®. This combination provides cartilage nutrition, joint fluid care and supports cartilage regeneration. This is the newest supplement on the market and has excellent supportive studies behind it.
- Pernaease Powder contains Green Lipped Mussel Extract, Shark Cartilage and Abalone to provide good nutrients for cartilage and joint fluid care.
- Fish Oil has an anti-inflammatory action that is helpful in some patients
Acupuncture: acupuncture involves the placement of fine needles into specific points (acupoints) around the body, enabling treatment of a wide range of health conditions and to promote healing.
Acupuncture releases many neurotransmitters and hormones, which improve circulation, decreases pain and promotes healing. While many diseases benefit from acupuncture, in terms of arthritis, it is especially helpful for its pain relief features.
Acupuncture appointments are available with Sara, who can also answer any questions you have about acupuncture and your pet.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are a class of drugs that provide pain relief by reducing inflammation. These drugs are the cat and dog’s version of ‘nurofen’ (please note: nurofen is highly toxic to cats and dogs). There are several effective drugs in this category. All patients on long term NSAID therapy should have bloodwork every 6 months to ensure their organs are managing the medication.
- For patients with muscle wastage, it is beneficial to start a rehabilitation program to help rebuild their muscles.
- Programs are tailored to each patients individual needs