Arthritis in our pets is something I see most days on my travels around Sydney as a mobile Vet. And of course lots of cases leads to lots of questions…
So I thought I’d answer some of the really common questions people ask me about joint disease in their pets.
What is arthritis?
Most often we see osteoarthritis in our pets. Other forms of arthritis are rare so for this blog I am just going to talk about osteoarthritis (OA).
In a healthy joint the bone ends are covered with a layer of cartilage. This cartilage cushions the ends of the bones and helps the joint move smoothly.
When your pet gets osteoarthritis the cartilage breaks down and becomes thin which leaves the ends of the bones unprotected making it harder for the joint to move smoothly.
Which pets get osteoarthritis?
We have traditionally seen OA in dogs and there are many treatments available for this, however we now recognise arthritis a lot more in cats and many are benefiting from better treatments available. In many cases OA is something we see as part of the aging process – I think of it like wear and tear. Older pets get stiff joints just like elderly people.
But many breeds of dogs are pre-disposed to OA in particular joints at a young age. For example because of hip dysplasia Labradors are prone to OA in their hips. And because of cruciate disease Rottweilers are prone to OA in their knees.
If your pet is overweight their risk of developing OA at a younger age is increased, and the stress on arthritic joints is increased.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of OA vary from pet to pet.
Most likely you’ll notice a gradual change in your pet. You might see they are stiff when they get up from lying down and limp for a few steps or they might become reluctant to go up or down stairs or jump into the car. They may also become lame after too much exercise, and start to slow down on the usual walks or runs
How is OA diagnosed?
To make a diagnosis, our mobile vet will need to visit and examine your pet fully.
This will include asking you questions about how your pet has been over recent weeks and months and a full clinical and musculoskeletal examination.
Depending on the findings of this examination we may suggest blood tests and or x-rays to be sure of the diagnosis and rule out other possible problems.
Can you cure OA?
Currently there is no cure for OA. We can help make your pet’s life much happier with modern anti-inflammatory medications but we can’t make the OA go away.
There are many types of supplements that may improve mobility and comfort though none have definitively been shown to do so. There are also newer innovations such as stem cell therapy that is currently being researched. These procedures are available now and some people feel they have helped however it is not being strongly recommended just yet.
In many cases a combination of anti-inflammatory drugs and lifestyle changes can really improve the quality of life for pets with OA and give them many more happy years with you.
So the image of of the dog at the top of this blog is… Astro. He is a gorgeous 15 year old dog.
A year ago a visited the family because they were considering possibly euthanasing Astro as he had become very sore and tired and very depressed, barely wanting to move.
After my examination we had a detailed discussion with many tears. I felt it was worth giving him a chance with some modern anti-inflammatory medication as he was generally in good health – just not coping with his arthritis.
The family declined any “geriatric” profiles given his age but were willing to trial medication understanding we did not know if his liver function was OK. We started him on meloxicam and he hasn’t looked back since!
The family were over the moon, and now over a year later, he has been happy, playful and more active than he has been for ages. Happy Days!
Contact me if you want to chat about any health problem in your pet.