As the weather gets colder, we tend to notice more obvious arthritis symptoms. Arthritis usually develops slowly and causes chronic pain. Common signs include:
- Reduced activity
- Reluctance to walk or play
- Stiffness in the legs (especially in the mornings, after sleep and cooler months)
- Difficulty getting up after laying down
- Limping or lameness
- Difficulty climbing stairs or jumping
- Licking or chewing at the joints
- Yelping in pain when touched
- Personality change (possibly aggression)
What causes arthritis?
Most of the joints in the body depend on a layer of cartilage acting as a shock-absorber inside the joint, which also provides a smooth surface so the adjoining bones can move freely over each other. With arthritis, the cartilage deteriorates and becomes rough, sometimes allowing the bones themselves to rub together. The synovial fluid becomes thin and watery, losing some of its lubricating properties. These changes create friction and pain inside the joint. This is often caused by the cumulative effects of abnormal stresses placed on the joints/hip dysplasia/trauma/ageing and continual wear and tear on the joint structures.
Being overweight can be a major contributor to arthritis, as the joint must carry a greater load than that for which it was designed. Arthritis can also occur in a joint with no obvious cause.
What treatments are available?
- Many pet owners think arthritis is a result of old age and nothing can be done, but there are many options available to help make your pet more comfortable.
- Modify the disease progression with a course of four injections (one once a week for four weeks) that stimulate cartilage-producing cells to produce new cartilage and stimulate joint capsule cells to produce lubricating joint fluid and prevent bone-on-bone formation long term. This prevents deterioration of this degenerative condition.
- Maintain healthy joints by giving an oral supplement that promotes joint health with three naturally occurring products – glucosamine, chondroitin and green-lipped muscle extract.
- This is advised for long-term use.
- Control the pain and inflammation using anti-inflammatory medications. These drugs are available in liquids and chews. We advise a six-monthly blood test to keep an eye on liver and kidney function with these painkillers.
- Lifestyle changes including calorie-controlled diets, keeping warm at night, soft, comfortable place to rest and regular, gentle exercise can aid in mobility and general health. Sometimes the initial treatment of osteoarthritis will give your dog lots of energy, so be careful to not overdo it.
If your pet is overweight there is an unnecessary increase in the load the joints must bear, thus accelerating the damage to the cartilage and adding to the pain. A weight-reducing diet can greatly improve the quality and length of your dog’s life. Feeding your pet a complete mature diet designed for joint problems can help as they have added glucosamine and chondroitin for enhanced joint and mobility support.
Exercise must be in moderation as strenuous exercise will put too much strain on the joints. But not enough exercise will lead to greater stiffness and muscle wastage. Gentle, regular exercise is best as this keeps the joints moving and the muscles in tone. Try short daily walks or gentle swimming.
Bedding is very important. Make sure your pet has a warm, dry, comfortable place to sleep, up off the cold floor and away from draughts. A trampoline-type bed and a warm blanket is ideal. Good padding will prevent excess pressure being applied to the joints. You can even buy beds that have heating!