What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a general term for abnormal changes in the joint. These changes occur when cartilage is worn away faster than it can be replaced. Cartilage acts as a cushion to protect the bones so when it is worn away the joint becomes swollen and painful.
Signs of arthritis in dogs
- Hesitates to go up or down stairs
- Lags behind or tires easily on walks
- Stiffness, especially after resting
- Whimpers, growls or snaps when touched in the area
- Excessive licking over joints
Signs of arthritis in cats
- Reduced activity
- Trouble jumping
- Social reclusiveness
- Inappropriate toileting inside
Arthritis is not curable but treatment can slow the progression of the disease and make your pet comfortable and active again.
There are numerous treatments and products available to manage joint pain and each one has pros and cons. One thing that is agreed on by experts is that arthritis management should be “multimodal” which means best results come when many different approaches are used concurrently. To get the best results your pet should get a vet recommended medication plus joint supplements and also other techniques such as weight loss and physical therapy.
Specific prescription diets are available; we recommend Hills j/d, and j/d plus metabolic These foods are clinically proven to improve mobility in just 21 days. They contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids to interrupt the destruction of cartilage and are calorie controlled to maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress on joints. These foods are fed as the animals’ sole diet and are completely nutritionally balanced.
Ensure your pet has a thick, warm, comfortable bed which is out of draughts and easy to get in and out of.
Synovan is a new breed of arthritis treatment; it improves cartilage quality by providing the raw materials the body needs and boosts production of synovial fluid to cushion and lubricate the joint. Synovan is given as an initial series of injections (one injection weekly for 4 weeks) and then a maintenance injection (every 1-6 months).
These drugs provide excellent pain relief and reduce the swelling in the joint, delaying cartilage destruction. Anti-inflammatory drugs generally are prescribed for daily use. There are several options available: Metacam (an oral liquid), Carprive and Rimadyl which is available as a chew or a tablet, and Trocoxil which is a tablet given once a month. The beauty of these drugs is that they work quickly and have high safety margins. However your Vet will need to examine your dog to be sure that the liver, kidneys and stomach are capable of processing the drugs. Be careful not to combine these drugs with other medications without vet advice and do not exceed the dose directed.
Other pain relief options
In the advanced stages of disease pets may require additional pain relief, your vet may prescribe Tramadol which is an opiod with excellent pain relieving properties although it is often sedating.
The body has natural mechanisms to rebuild damaged cartilage and improve muscle mass on its own but these mechanisms require raw materials. A common method of addressing arthritis, especiallywhen it is in earlier stages, is to provide these materials orally as nutritional supplements. There are numerous supplement brands available both on the human and the pet retail markets. No prescription is required, but these products require weeks to build up in the body and their effects are generally mild. It is difficult to know you are buying a quality product because supplements are not regulated by the ACVM in the same way that drugs are.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate
These products, often referred to as chondroprotectants, are cartilage components harvested chiefly from sea molluscs. By taking these components orally, the patient is able to have plenty of the necessary building blocks needed to repair damaged cartilage. It is also felt that these products may have some anti-inflammatory properties.
Green-Lipped Mussel Extract (Perna Canaliculus)
Green lipped mussel extract has a low grade anti-inflammatory effect. Its effect produces mild pain relief only and will take several weeks to exert visible effects.
Omega Three Fatty Acids
Certain dietary fats, typically from cold-water fish oils, have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. These products require at least one month building up to adequate amounts, the effects are not usually dramatic but can be helpful. It should be noted that flax seed oil is readily converted to omega three fatty acids in the human body. This conversion is not so easy in the canine or feline body so it is a waste to add flax seed oil to pet food. Cod liver oil is especially rife with vitamin A and toxicity can be a real problem for pets receiving cod liver oil supplements so it is best to use another type of fish oil.
It is important for dogs to get regular, gentle exercise to maintain muscle mass and reduce stiffness. Walking and swimming are ideal, but try to avoid energetic activities like jumping, chasing balls and rough games with other dogs.
It is crucial that arthritic pets do not carry excess weight as this places a huge amount of strain on sore joints. If your cat or dog is overweight we offer a weight loss programme, and can recommend a low calorie diet.