Arthritis Alert - is your pet affected?
Although we’re not wishing the summer away, once the weather starts to cool down, signs of arthritis can become more noticeable in many pets.
As with humans, arthritis is a painful and debilitating condition caused by inflammation and damage in the joints. It’s more common in older pets, although can strike at any age, affects all species and breeds.
The joints most susceptible to arthritis are those permitting limb movements – called synovial joints. The ends of the bones which meet at these joints are covered by smooth articular cartilage and the joints are lubricated by synovial fluid. Arthritis develops when the smooth cartilage that lines the joints becomes roughened and cracked. This can be due to general ageing, but poor joint conformation, like hip dysplasia, will exacerbate issues and cause problems earlier in life.
Signs of arthritis can be difficult to pick up on at first, particularly because our pets are great at hiding chronic pain and often changes, such as resting or sleeping more, slowing down on walks or general grumpiness can easily be put down to ‘old age’. Cats are masters of disguise when it comes to arthritis, and despite the fact that a huge 80% will suffer once they are older than 12 years, very few actually receive any treatment.
Arthritis is usually diagnosed with a combination of a clinical examination (looking for stiffness, pain and roughness in the joints), plus a history of changes compatible with the disease. X-rays can be helpful, confirming the degree of bone changes and allow assessment of the joints affected.
There are many different treatments for arthritis and as every patient and their joints are different, there is no set rule to follow. Pain relieving medications are the mainstay for most pets and these are safe, effective and available in various formulations. Supplements can also be very helpful, as can physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and acupuncture – yes pets can receive acupuncture treatment. It’s vital to keep arthritic pets slim and fit, so their joints don’t have too much weight to carry around.
If you think your pet may be showing signs of arthritis and you are concerned, we recommend a visit to your vet for a full health check.
Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen.