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DEALING WITH THE PAIN OF ARTHRITIS IN YOUR PET


If you thought your pet was unwell and in pain, you’d bring them in to see us. But osteoarthritis in pets was traditionally written off as an inevitable part of ageing. Arthritis is identified in up


to 20% of animals and prob- ably remains undiagnosed and untreated in many more. It’s the most common cause of pain and discomfort in dogs and cats and felines and by treating and manag- ing it you can give your pet a better quality of life.


Osteoarthritis, or Degen- erative Joint Disease, is a progressive deterioration of cartilage in moveable joints. Cartilage is the protective ‘shock-absorbing’ layer be- tween bone surfaces. Over time this can become worn away, exposing bone, caus- ing pain, inflammation and swelling around the joint. Osteoarthritis can be pri-


mary or secondary. Primary causes are rare,


involving


a genetic predisposition to joint problems, present in some breeds. Large dogs like German Shepherds and Labradors, are most com- monly hit. Secondary osteo- arthritis is more common, It’s normally caused by a problem or joint injury. We tend to think of secondary arthritis as an elderly afflic- tion. This is because carti- lage in joints deteriorates and erodes as animals age, meaning senior pets are the most commonly affected. Yet secondary osteoarthritis doesn’t just affect seniors! Young animals that have suffered joint trauma as a result of accidents or falls often


develop secondary


arthritis. Our pets are good at hid-


ing signs of pain so it’s up to you to keep look out for


them. Dogs and cats may become less agile. Your cat may stop jumping up to their favourite place or your dog may struggle to jump into the boot. Some pets suffer from arthritis in just one or two joints, watch for them ‘favouring’ these joints. Some pets may look awkward and hunched, as they have trouble getting comfortable. Pets may be worse in mornings, or when they awake from a nap and gradually improve as they move around. You may no- tice personality changes in your pet; they may become hypersensitive


to people


touching painful joints, per- haps reacting aggressively. Dogs tend to get arthritis in hips, knees and elbows. It’s more common in hip and elbow joints in cats.


In terms of managing ar- thritis, excess weight is to


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be avoided as it places extra stress on joints. It can be a catch-22 situation as pets suffering from arthritis are less likely to be active, so more prone to put on weight. We suggest putting your pet on a prescription diet as part of managing their lifestyle to help cope with arthritis. It’s vital your dog still receives moderate and controlled amounts of exercise, but take your pet’s extra needs into account, short, easy walks on flat surfaces. It’ vital to consider how you can adjust their envi- ronment: Is their bed deep enough? Will they ben- efit from having food bowls placed higher to prevent them having to bend? Are your floors non-slippery? Some people move their dog’s bed to a nice and warm spot and wonder why he prefers to stretch out on


tiled floors. Pets with arthritis might not enjoy too much heat on their joints.


Swimming can be fantas- tic for dogs with arthritis: It removes weight from pain- ful joints. Hydrotherapy ses- sions are beneficial for those dogs not brave enough to swim outside! Consider physiotherapy and acupunc- ture as therapies to help al- leviate the pain of arthritis in conjunction with conven- tional treatments.


Arthritis is a chronic, on- going condition. Think how miserable and irritable you’d be if you were stiff and sore every day. Pets with arthritis are often prescribed pain- killing and anti-inflammatory medication. This won’t re- duce the cause or ‘cure’ it, but do help reduce pain and swelling, improving their life quality. Nutritional joint sup- plements are proven as ef-


fective in managing arthritis. There are surgical op- tions, but these may only be viable for pets suffering arthritis as a result of injury or trauma who are depend- ent on that joint. This is the only treatment that targets the cause of osteoarthritis, rather than just managing it. There’s no correct plan


of treatment for a pet with osteoarthritis, as every in- dividual animal is different. The best option is to talk to your vet about what treat- ments they recommend. Re- member you may not see an immediate effect, it may take a few weeks to see an improvement.


Concerned your pet may be suffering from osteoar- thritis, either as a result of trauma or old age? Please call Ashcroft Veterinary Cen- tre for advice on the best possible treatment for them.


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