Causes of Arthritis
Arthritis is inflammation of a joint. It may affect any joint in the body but most commonly affects the joints of the limbs and spine. A normal joint has smooth cartilage on either side lubricated by thick joint fluid. A damaged joint has a rough cartilage surface which “grinds” against the opposing surface leading to further erosion. Degeneration may continue until cartilage is worn down and eventually pain and lameness occurs.
Causes of arthritis include degeneration due to aging (wear and tear), inherited conditions (such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia), infection, injury or trauma, ligament and tendon damage (such as cruciate damage), blood disease, allergic or auto-immune (rheumatoid) diseases and cancer.
Signs of Arthritis
May include one or several of the following:
- Swelling or Redness of skin over joint
- Stiffness, reluctance to walk, climb stairs jump or play
- Lagging behind on walks, difficulty rising from a resting position
- Yelping in pain when touched.
- Changes in behaviour, sleeping habits or a reluctance to be handled
Diagnosis of Arthritis
We can be highly suspicious of arthritis from the way a pet is behaving. Feeling and moving the joints will help localise the joints affected. Radiographs (x-rays) are usually needed before treatment to determine the severity of the arthritis.
Important Points in Treatment
In most cases arthritis is a disease that can be controlled rather than cured.
If there is instability of a joint then surgery may be necessary to help stabilise the joint and prevent further arthritis progressing. This is particularly important with damage to tendons or ligaments such as cruciate ligament injury. Some very bad cases of hip arthritis may benefit from surgery.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) These drugs are related to human NSAIDS such as Celebrex. We have these medications in injectable, tablet, liquid and chewable forms. We have several different types available to use and in many cases it is a matter of trialling medications to see which works best for your pet.
Disease Modifying Agents
There is injectable “Disease Modifying Agent” that blocks some of the inflammation in the joint, increases the production of fluid in the joint and helps normalise the immune response within the joint. This is an injection that is given once weekly for 4 weeks then monthly for 3 months then usually repeated every 3 months. Improvement is sometimes not seen until a few weeks into the course
Diet plays an important part in the health and function of joints. There is a prescription diet called Hills J/D (Joint Diet) that has been formulated to provide optimum nutrition for arthritis joints.
There are several products that can be added to the food to promote a healthy joint. These usually contain high levels of the substances that joints and joint fluid is made from. They help in some dogs. These include Sashas Blend, Flex powder and shark cartilage powder to name a few.
Either needles or laser, is used to give analgesia and/or anti-inflammatory effects over long periods. Generally a five week course of treatments given weekly is necessary.
Weight control is an essential component of arthritis control because obesity worsens arthritic conditions by increasing the load on each joint.
Bedding needs to be low to the ground, preferably without any sides that your pet has to step over. A range of beds that have been designed for pets with arthritis are available at the clinic. Some also incorporate magnets into the cover of the bed. Magnets have been shown to reduce arthritic pain in extensive human trials, and appear to do the same for pets.
Exercise is important for mental stimulation as well as for good health. If your pet is having trouble with their exercise regimen, speak to us about a modified programme that would be more beneficial. We also have a physiotherapist consulting in the practice who would be able to devise a rehabilitation programme for your pet if required.