Arthritis (otherwise known as degenerative joint disease) is a condition that can sadly affect pets as well as their owners. The joints most susceptible to arthritis are those permitting limb movements these are called synovial joints. The ends of the bones which meet at these joints are covered by very smooth articular cartilage. The joints are also lubricated with synovial fluid allowing friction free movement.
In pets with arthritis, this protective cartilage is damaged and worn away, resulting in exposure of the underlying bone, causing pain and inflammation.
Secondary new bone is commonly deposited around the joint and may be seen on an x-ray taken by your vet. Affected joints commonly appear stiff, swollen and painful. Pets may have difficulty in getting up after rest and may be reluctant to walk or jump onto chairs or into the car. Additionally, the symptoms are made much worse by cold and damp weather.
In the majority of cases arthritis occurs following a lifetime of wear and tear on the joints. It may also occur following joint trauma or as a consequence of joint malformation (eg hip dysplasia) resulting in an unstable joint with increased wear and tear on the joint cartilage.
Although arthritis cannot usually be cured, the good news is that vets now have an expanding range of treatments that can help ease the pain for your pet. For pets that are carrying a few extra pounds, losing a bit of weight can make a huge difference. Many pets also benefit from anti-inflammatory pain relief medication and food supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate.
If you are at all worried that your pet may be suffering with arthritis, contact your vet for a check-up.
Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen. w: www.hillsidevets.co.uk.