Osteoarthritis in your pet

As a veterinarian, I thought it may be helpful to incorporate some weekly veterinary related information/tips into my page. After all, if we’re worried about our own health and fitness then we should be worried about our pets’ health and fitness too.

So here goes! Any feedback is appreciated. Let me know what you guys think! After all this is for you.

I thought I would talk about arthritis today since we have an 18 year old cat that has fairly severe arthritis and we deal with it every day in our house.

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OSTEOARTHRITIS

Osteoarthritis is defined as a degenerative condition of the joints in which the normal cartilage cushion in the joint breaks down. Eventually, adjacent bones rub against each other, causing pain, decreased joint movement, and sometimes the formation of bone spurs and other changes around the joint. It is a progressive disease; however, it can be actively managed so that the course of the disease is slowed and remaining joint function is preserved.

Because we see our pets each day, subtle changes are even more challenging to notice, but if your dog exhibits any of the following, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your veterinarian:

Changes in chewing, eating and/or drinking habits
Weight gain or loss
Withdrawal from social interaction or avoiding being touched
Changes in activity level
Changes in sleeping habits (sleeping more or hyperactivity)
Increased vocalization
Increased urination and/or ’accidents’
Just not acting normal

A common symptom of osteoarthritis in dogs is lameness, but this symptom is not seen as often in cats.

Many of these behavioral symptoms are a result of the pain that osteoarthritis causes. Because pets differ in how they show pain, and some do such a good job hiding it, you may never realize they are in pain if you’re not specifically looking for it.

Pain is complex. The body manufactures many different chemicals and receptors and even has different types of nerves to transmit pain information to the brain. Pain serves a function – preservation. It is designed to let the body know that an area is injured so that it is not overused and further damaged. Inflammation serves as the first stage of healing, to bring blood and nutrients to an area of injury. However, ultimately, pain and inflammation can both get out of hand.

It’s important to work with your veterinarian to design a pain management program. This can include the following:

Weight loss if your dog is overweight
Increasing exercise and play
Moving food and water dishes to a more convenient location and providing soft or therapeutic bedding

Osteoarthritis cannot be cured but there are a variety of remedies that can help reduce the joint pain and inflammation and help your pet feel more comfortable:
– specific veterinary diets
– anti-inflammatory medications
– joint injections
– cartilage protective agents
– physiotherapy
– accupuncture
– surgery is available to remove, replace or fuse affected joints if the pain is bad enough

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