Arthritis in Pets – The Pet Owner’s Guide
Arthritis is the most common source of chronic pain in older dogs. It affects many younger dogs and cats too. In this article, you’ll learn if your pet is at increased risk, the basics of arthritis, signs and symptoms to watch out for, and easy steps that can be taken right now to treat arthritis in your dog or cat!
Extra: As a bonus, you’ll learn about special promotions we are running (right now!) to treat your pet!
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is characterized by damage to the cartilage between your pet’s joints. In healthy joints, cartilage acts as a shock absorber to cushion the bones that form the joint. However, as the damage worsens and the cartilage thins, the bones begin to contact each other when the joint is moved. This causes inflammation and damage to the bones, which is usually very painful. There are actually a few underlying causes of arthritis with unique risk factors. We’ll outline what you need to know below!
The common kind:
Degenerative Joint Disease (or “osteoarthritis”) is the most common form of arthritis in pets. It typically occurs from prolonged wear and tear on a joint. In general, the more strain that is put on a pet’s joint, the higher the probability that the dog or cat will develop osteoarthritis. This is why osteoarthritis is so common in large breeds of dogs or overweight dogs and cats – weight and age are the largest risk factors.
Degenerative joint disease can also be triggered by joint injury (such as joint fractures and cruciate ligament tears) or developmental conditions like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia or osteochondrosis.
At risk: Immune-mediated (or “rheumatoid”) arthritis is most common in small or “toy” breeds of dogs, typically around the age of 5 or 6. It is very uncommon in cats.
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an overreaction of the pet’s own immune system. Normally, an immune system reacts when it detects a foreign protein (an “antigen”) inside the body and creates antibodies in order to fight it. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakes its own protein for an antigen, and begins fighting its own body. The antibody and protein form an “immune complex” which is deposited in the joint. This causes inflammation – the body’s normal reaction to injury. The immune system will then seek to destroy the cause of injury, which usually only leads to further damage to the joint(s). In this way, rheumatoid arthritis is self-perpetuating, and can become debilitating as the cartilage and bone are worn away.
At risk: Septic arthritis is most common in male dogs between the age of 4 and 7. It is also more common in pets with weakened immune systems or diabetes. It is fairly rare in cats.
Septic arthritis is typically caused by bacteria that spreads through the bloodstream because of a wound from a penetrating foreign object. As the infecting microorganism spreads through the bloodstream, it makes its way into a joint (usually only one or two joints are affected) and causes inflammation.
Signs and Symptoms
Arthritis is notoriously difficult to spot at its onset. Cats are especially good at hiding health conditions. But because arthritis is a progressive disease, the sooner we catch and treat it, the better for your pet’s well-being and happiness!
In most cases of arthritis in dogs or cats, you will notice your pet generally “slowing down.” Regrettably, this means that often times the onset of arthritis is confused with old age, when it is actually a treatable medical condition!
Typically, the first sign of arthritis is an altered gait, as your dog or cat attempts to put less weight on the affected joint. Your dog or cat may begin to take a longer amount of time rising after lying down. Arthritic dogs may stop jumping into your car, and arthritic cats may stop jumping on counter tops. Many pets with arthritis find it difficult to go up or down stairs. Arthritic pets usually begin sleeping much more, can become irritable because of the pain, can experience muscle atrophy, and some lick or chew at the affected joint(s).
It is crucially important that a veterinarian diagnoses the type and severity of arthritis in your pet. That way we can form a thoughtful and effective treatment plan to enhance your dog or cat’s quality of life!
How to treat arthritis
If you suspect your pet may have arthritis, the first step is to call us right away. Arthritis cannot be cured, but there are a number of ways to slow its progression and alleviate the pain felt by your loving dog or cat. Below, you’ll learn about commonly effective methods, along with things you can do at home right now!
Many pets afflicted with arthritis benefit immensely from laser therapy. Laser therapy is a modern, non-invasive and totally painless procedure that harnesses light to stimulate blood flow, improve cell health, reduce inflammation, and release endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller). This can greatly improve arthritic conditions. Laser therapy is a very exciting advancement in veterinary medicine!
Promotion: If your pet is a good candidate for laser therapy, you’ll receive your first laser treatment session free! Just click “redeem” or call us to schedule an appointment!
Some dogs and cats experience beneficial effects from nutritional supplementation. One of the most effective supplements is glucosamine. Glucosamine is a natural substance found in your pet’s body that helps repair tissues like cartilage. As your pet ages, their body’s production level of glucosamine slows. When we supplement your pet’s diet with glucosamine, we are using your pet’s natural healing mechanisms to repair damaged joint cartilage. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which reduces pain! Side effects are very rare, but consult with us before starting a regimen.
Promotion: If your pet is a good candidate, get a free sample of glucosamine by clicking “redeem” or calling us!
Around the house
Make sure your dog or cat has access to well-padded and warm bedding. Hard and cold surfaces exacerbate arthritic symptoms and can be painful for your pet, so make sure your dog or cat has carpets or rugs to walk on. If your pet is overweight, consult with us on how to use diet and exercise to shed the pounds so that your pet’s quality of life improves!
Always remember, we’re here to help! Call us right away whenever you need us!