Options for Osteoarthritis in Your Pet
Osteoarthritis (arthritis) or degenerative joint disease is common in dogs, affecting up to 20% of adult dogs. It can start to become apparent just as the dog reaches adulthood and often worsens as they age! It affects cats as well, this may be one of the reasons your cat is less active, reluctant to jump up on high perches, windows, or favorite furniture, no longer wants to play with other cats.
Arthritis is often confirmed by radiographs, but because arthritis is actually erosion of the cartilage, no radiographic changes does not rule out arthritis.
As mentioned with cats, the consequences of arthritis are: pain, less activity (which can lead to obesity), decreased strength, decreased appetite secondary to pain, and less interest in activities that your pet used to enjoy!
There are multiple ways that we can make animals with arthritis more comfortable! In less serious cases, we may start with one or two treatments, but as they age or depending on severity, we may need to use several treatments simultaneously to make your pet more comfortable or just to get them walking again.
The earliest medical intervention (most effective early in the disease process) is "Slow-Acting Disease Modifying Osteoarthritic Agents." These are things like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (Adequan) and intra-articular injections. These nutraceuticals and drugs help to maintain the integrity and lubricate the joints.
Exercise and weight management are useful at every stage of the disease. Obviously, the level of activity is catered to the individual's ability and level of pain.
In painful animals, we put them on oral medications. We will often put them on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (please do not start these medications without consulting a veterinarian! Over the counter medication formulated for humans should not be used in dogs or cats!) and sometimes additional pain medication.
If you think that your pet has arthritis, please consult with your regular veterinarian to discuss radiographs and pain management. You can have a consult with our surgeon as some pets have large pieces of bone in the joint that need to be removed and rule out other orthopedic issues affecting mobility. You can consult with our rehabilitation and physical therapy specialist to come up with a pain management and physical therapy program tailored to your pet, that may include medication, diet, exercise program (at home), laser therapy, underwater treadmill, and other modalities.