(08) 8355 5475
(08) 8272 3400
(08) 8351 6066
Pets and their people
Arthritis is one of the most common health problems in pets, affecting many senior and geriatric cats and dogs, yet only a fraction of these animals have their disease diagnosed, let alone well-managed. Unfortunately it is often perceived as slowing down in his/her old age. But it is actually pain, not age, causing the changes in these animals. And we know you would never want your beloved pet to suffer unnecessary pain. It is our mission to provide the best care possible for your pet, so they can live a long, well, and happy life with you.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is the term commonly used to describe degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis. Simply put it means"inflamed joints". There are other kinds of arthritis (such as rheumatoid or infectious), but they are much less common. Osteoarthritis leads to thickened tissue around the joint, destruction of the cushiony cartilage, bony change, poor joint fluid, pain, and decreased function. Anyone with a bad knee can tell you what this means in real life.
The x-ray below shows a healthy hip on the left, and a badly arthritic hip on the right.You can see the bony change on the x-ray, but you can't appreciate all the soft tissue, cartilage, and joint fluid changes.
Read more about arthritis from our friends at VetzInsight.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
From mild behavioural changes to a complete inability to walk, the symptoms of arthritis vary widely and may not be what you would expect. Animals have the same pain sensors humans have, but they express their pain differently. We need to learn their body language of pain. The most commonly noticed sign is a stiffness after rest or a reluctance to do normal activity. Animals limp when pain gets bad, and only cry or whine when they are in real agony, so don’t be fooled. Their subtle signs of pain are easy to read once you know what to look for.
- Reduced activity: sleeping more, jumping less, playing less
- Increased activity: pacing, circling, or difficulty in finding a good resting spot
- Loss of curiosity and interaction
- Hiding or attempts to escape
- Excessive licking or grooming, or failing to groom
- Poor appetite
- Changes in toileting: accidents in unusual places or odd posture
- Tail flicking in cats, or dropped tail in dogs
- Fast breathing or heart rate
- Reaction (growling, guarding) to handling of painful areas
- Changes to body posture or facial expression
- Limping often only happens if pain is severe
How is arthritis diagnosed?
Our veterinarians will often suspect arthritis when they get a good medical history, coupled with a hands-on physical exam. However, some problems can mimic arthritis, such as pain in the connective tissue (myofascial pain), nerve damage, and even tumours.
If we want to maximise our chances of being safe and effective in formulating a treatment plan then confirming the presence of arthritis, and ruling out other problems, x-rays are recommended. If x-rays confirm arthritis, they also tell us which joints are affected, how badly they are affected, and what treatment options are likely to be most effective.
As many osteoarthritis patients are considered ‘geriatric’ and may have several complicating health problems. A check of urine and blood samples help us to identify and monitor underlying kidney and liver problems is recommended. This helps minimize the risk that the medications used impact organ function. In fact, we recommend annual lab testing for our senior and geriatric patients because of this; like arthritis- the sooner we find a problem, often the more we can do about it to ensure your pet lives a long and happy life.
Can arthritis be treated?
ABSOLUTELY! Some owners are afraid to take their aging pets to the vet, fearing the worst. In reality, there is much that can be done to not only decrease the pain your pet feels, but also slow down the arthritic change. The sooner we start, the better the results. And the options have multiplied in recent years, so there is generally an option for every patient, client, and budget. So fear not! Get your pet checked out by our veterinary team, and we will work with you to maximize your pet’s comfort and function.
Treatment generally includes one or more of the following
Weight loss and exercise. Carrying extra weight not only puts physical stress on the affected joints and soft tissues, but also actually increases the inflammation in your pet’s body. We have developed great resources for you to determine your pet’s ideal weight, determine an appropriate diet and treats for them, and tips to ensure success.
Lifestyle adjustments. Sensible exercise, non-slip flooring, supportive and soft bedding, minimizing stairs and required jumps, and other adjustments can make a huge difference. Find more information here.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). You may take drugs of this class for your own aches and pains. Not only do they provide pain relief, but they also cut down on the inflammation that worsens arthritic change. These are prescription medications with doses specifically for dogs and cats, as determined by our veterinary team.
Disease-modifying osteoarthritis drugs (DMOADs). We recommend supplements with proven anti-inflammatory action, based on medical testing. There are diets with these type of supplements already built into them, and our team can help you select one that suits your pet best. Currently, Antinol Rapid and the green-lipped mussel found in Glyde are our recommendations for oral supplements beyond what is available in our arthritis diets. Likewise, Synovan injections can be used in both dogs and cats. The injections are given under the skin, NOT in joints themselves. This medication has pentosan and n-acetyl-glucosamine in it, which helps stimulate joint fluid production. So Synovan works like taking an oil can to a squeaky joint.
Rehabilitation and physical therapy. Just like humans, pills can’t fix everything. Dogs and cats get muscle spasms, ‘tie up’, and develop secondary issues when they are shifting weight from painful areas. We work with physical therapists, veterinarians, and nurses to use hands-on techniques to reduce pain and improve function. Canine Mypofunctional Therapy , acupuncture , trigger-point therapy, fascial release, and other techniques can help reduce that soft tissue stiffness. Exercise plans can be developed to improve strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance. We can also refer you onward for underwater treadmill and regenerative medicine options.
Additional medications. Some animals suffer severe, chronic pain, and often require additional medications to control it. Our veterinary team has training to identify when these medications are needed, how to prescribe them, and how to monitor your pet while on them.
Surgery. If there is an underlying structural problem causing the arthritis, the best way to slow arthritis down may be surgery. This may mean realigning a bone, reducing strain on a ligament, or even completely replacing a joint, such as the hip joint in dogs.
At Pets and Their People, we are striving for a "Pain Free" practice. We would be delighted to help you maximise your pets quality of life while living with arthritis. Please call your preferred clinic to make an appointment.
Fulham Gardens Vet Surgery
441 Tapleys Hill Road, (Cnr Moore Rd)
Fulham Gardens, SA, 5024
Phone: (08) 8355 5475
Unley Vet Surgery
36 Unley Road
Unley, SA, 5061
Phone: (08) 8272 3400
Black Forest Vet Surgery
647 South Road
Black Forest, SA, 5035
Phone: (08) 8351 6066
All Surgeries are closed on public holidays.