You may see your pet limping or favouring one or more of his legs, depending on which legs and which joints are arthritic. In some cases, the limp may seem worse when your pet first rises and become less noticeable as your pet “warms up” by moving around.
2. Difficulty Moving
Your pet may also become reluctant to do things that were previously easy for him to accomplish. For instance, your dog may find it difficult to get into and out of the car or may have difficulty going up and down stairs that were previously easily manageable. Arthritic cats, on the other hand, may stop jumping onto countertops, perches and other high areas because of the pain and discomfort.
3. Spinal Issues
Arthritic changes can occur not only in the legs but also in the various parts of the spine. These changes may result in a sore neck, an abnormal posture with a “hunch” in the back, or lameness of one or both hind legs.
Your pet may tire more easily. For dogs, this may mean that walks become shorter and more painful for your pet. Your pet may spend more time sleeping and/or resting.
Arthritic animals may become irritable. They may snap and/or bite when approached or handled, particularly if the petting or handling takes place in a manner that increases their pain.
6. Muscle Atrophy
Arthritic pets often develop muscle atrophy or dying off of the muscle tissue due to inactivity and decreased use of the muscles. A pet with atrophied muscles in their legs will have a leg which looks thinner than a normal leg.
7. Licking, Chewing & Biting
Pets affected with arthritis may also begin to lick at, chew or bite at body areas that are painful. This may even reach the point of causing inflamed skin and hair loss over affected areas.
Arthritis in cats can be particularly hard to spot. Many arthritic cats simply become less active. Often, this change in behavior corresponds to the cat becoming older and a cat owner may simply assume that the change is normal when, in fact, your cat may actually be decreasing his activity level because he is in pain due to arthritis. Up to 90% of cats over the age of 12 suffer from arthritis.
Arthritis Treatment Options.
Though arthritis cannot be cured, there are various remedies and procedures that can help ease the pain for your pet, and slow the degenerative process. Consult Mark or Jodi for advice if you believe your dog or cat is suffering from arthritis.
1. Weight loss
If your pet is at all overweight it will increase the pressure on their joints, leading to increased pain and accelerated joint destruction. Recent human research suggests that weight loss can actually lead to regeneration of lost cartilage. Speak to our nurses for weight reduction options and support.
This needs to be regular, frequent and not excessive.
Make an appointment with Jodi to discuss this.
Typically these include glucosamine sulphate(not hydrochloride), chondroitin, EFAs and MSM. They can be most easily be provided by adding Pernease or Joint Guard to the meals, or by feeding Hill's Science Diet j/d (an excellent food with all the goodies added).
5. Pentosan sulphate injections
4 injections given over a 4 week period, with single booster shots as required (typically monthly to 6 monthly).
6. Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
The cornerstone of pain management for osteoarthritis patients. Medications include Metacam, Rimadyl and Previcox. They are excellent at reducing pain and inflammation, but do require periodic blood tests to monitor for adverse reactions.
7. Class IV Laser Therapy
The newest modality available and showing excellent results. This is an affordable, pain & risk free alternative to medication. Laser therapy provides significant pain relief, and accelerated tissue healing. We have been using it here successfully since 2012.
A late stage medication that can be very useful in some cases.
9. Corticosteroids (cortisone, prednisolone)
Unfortunately the frequency of side effects, renders this useful class of drugs confined to late stages of osteoarthritis.
10. Stem cell therapy
It's all through the media - and has been used in dogs almost longer than humans. Quite expensive, but provides effective relief for 1-2 years. Recent research has highlighted the benefits of combining SCT with laser therapy.
In some cases a surgical solution may be the best way of dealing wioth arthritis.
Very often pets suffering from osteoarthritis require a combination of treatments. Weight loss and exercise are for everyone; nutriceuticals/pentosan/laser may not work on their own in severe cases, but they may allow a reduction in NSAID doses, making it a safer approach. That is where we individualise the therapeutic approach for your pet, and review their treatment as they change with age.