What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a painful condition where there is inflammation of the movable joints in the body. It affects both humans and animals, and is progressive, meaning it worsens over time. It’s more common in older pets, however, we also see signs of arthritis in younger cats and dogs who have had problems with their joint development.
In a healthy joint, the area where bones meet is covered by smooth cartilage and lubricated by joint fluid. This helps the bones to slide against each other making movement easy and comfortable – picture an Olympic skater gliding around a rink! Now imagine something has damaged the surface of the ice rink, with the once smooth finish becoming thin and irregular. Suddenly movement becomes slow and difficult. This is also what happens in osteoarthritis where cartilage damage occurs. The bony surfaces rub off each other causing pain and decreased mobility. Over time, swelling and new bone can form around the joint.
Osteoarthritis can be triggered by joint instability such as with ligament damage, by an accident or trauma which caused a joint to fracture, or abnormal development of the cartilage or bones in a joint. Some dogs and cats will just have one joint affected and other pets will have multiple.
How Can I Tell if My Pet is Affected by Arthritis?
This can be tricky, as occasionally signs are subtle especially in more stoic dogs and cats!
Common signs of arthritis in pets are:
- You may notice your pet is a little reluctant to exercise, favouring rest over movement.
- They may be slower when out for a walk and struggle to perform activities they once found easy, such as climbing stairs.
- They tend to be particularly bad after a long period of rest, rising from their bed with difficulty.
- They may spend time licking their joint, staining their fur with an orange tinged colour.
- Some dogs will show obvious lameness in one or more legs, especially if they have hurt an already damaged and arthritic joint when out exercising.
Bare in mind that some pets won’t show any of the above signs. They may just seem a little bit off form especially being more quiet or grumpy than usual!
What Can I Do to Help My Pet?
Osteoarthritis can flare up at any time of year, however, it tends to worsen as we approach autumn and winter when the weather becomes colder.
There are multiple treatments available which will depend on the severity of your pet’s clinical signs. Usually a multi modal approach of nutrition, exercise and medical treatment works best. Exploring nutrition, to keep them at a healthy weight, appropriate exercise, alongside medical and surgical treatment options can be discussed further during your visit to ArkVet.