June 22, 2024
Companion Animal Arthritis

Companion Animal Arthritis: Understanding Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

Causes of Arthritis in Pets

Arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is one of the most common health problems that affect dogs and cats as they age. Several factors can contribute to the development of arthritis in companion animals. Genetics plays a significant role – certain large and giant breeds have a higher predisposition to arthritis due to the stress placed on their joints as they grow. Obesity is another key risk factor – carrying extra weight puts additional strain on joints. Previous injuries, especially ACL tears, can lead to arthritis development down the road. Age is also strongly correlated with arthritis – incidence increases as pets get older due to natural wear and tear over many years. Finally, environmental factors like hard surfaces and outdoor play may accelerate joint degradation.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

The signs of Companion Animal Arthritis are often subtle at first. Early indicators can include intermittent stiffness, reluctance to jump or run, slowed mobility, trouble climbing stairs, and hesitance to play. As the condition progresses, pets may limp, hesitate to rise, carry a leg, or become less active overall. They may also vocalize or yelp when touched near sore joints. Owners often notice pets acting cranky or irritable due to chronic pain. Symptoms tend to flare up after rest and improve with activity as joints loosen. Signs are commonly worse in the morning or following prolonged inactivity. Physical exam often reveals joint swelling, limited range of motion, and tenderness near infected areas.

Diagnosing Arthritis in Pets

An accurate diagnosis starts with a thorough physical exam plus a review of medical history and symptom progression by a veterinarian. Important information includes breed, age, weight history, past injuries, and activity level. For patients with severe or worsening signs, imaging such as x-rays or additional advanced diagnostics like CT or MRI scans may be recommended. X-rays provide clear pictures of bones and can detect deformities, bone damage, and loss of joint space that typify arthritis. Bloodwork may help rule out other joint issues but usually cannot definitively diagnose arthritis on its own. Advanced diagnostics help reveal joint problems invisible on x-rays. Definitive diagnosis requires correlating exam findings, history, imaging results, and response to anti-inflammatory medications.

Conservative Treatment Approaches for Companion Animal Arthritis

Non-surgical interventions comprise the initial management strategies recommended. Weight control through calorie reduction and increased exercise can help minimize additional stress on joints. Physical rehabilitation promotes joint mobility and strengthens surrounding muscles. Hydrotherapy provides low-impact exercise in warm water. Nutraceuticals containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may help repair cartilage. Prescription anti-inflammatory medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can reduce pain and inflammation. These are aimed at managing symptoms and slowing disease progression in less advanced cases. Compliance with at-home treatments and medications under veterinary guidance is key for conservative care success. While not a cure, holistic approaches can alleviate arthritis symptoms when adopted as a pet’s daily routine.

Surgical Options for Advanced Arthritis

When arthritis has progressed significantly and conservative options provide insufficient relief, surgical procedures may become necessary. Joint replacement surgery can restore mobility in severely arthritic hips, knees, elbows, and other joints in middle-aged or senior dogs. This technology continues advancing with promising outcomes. Another option for hips and knees involves osteotomy, or realigning the bones, to redistribute weight forces. For acute injuries like torn cruciate ligaments that lead to rapid arthritis, stabilization techniques can preserve the joint long-term. In end-stage arthritis, arthrodesis causes two bones tofuse together to eliminate pain at that joint. While surgical solutions carry risks, they offer new lease on active life for arthritic pets otherwise facing immobility. Post-op management and limiting activity necessitate substantial owner commitment..

Managing Expectations and Quality of Life

Arthritis management aims to control pain, protect joints through rest and weight control, and maintain mobility for as long as possible. However, it remains a degenerative condition with no cure. While therapies can slow progression and provide comfort, owners must accept pets may develop limitations over time. Adjustments like carrying dogs, using pet strollers or orthopedic pillows help them participate in family activities. The goal shifts from eliminating symptoms to maximizing good days and quality time together. Monitoring mood, appetite and willingness to play shows if treatments are successfully balancing disease with loved pet’s happy life. Euthanasia may sometimes be most humane once daily living involves too much suffering. Advance end-of-life discussions help owners make choices with pet’s best interest in mind as arthritis runs its natural course.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it