Joint Health: Healthy Pet/Happy Pet 18

Article Series for Dunes Living Magazine

By: Dr. Amanda Thomas

Arthritis is as common and debilitating a disease in dogs and cats as it is in humans.

Just like in humans, it causes a decrease in joint mobility and function, an increase in inflammation and in most cases severe pain and discomfort.

Arthritis is diagnosed more often in dogs than in cats, but cats can suffer terribly from this disease, even at an early age.

Arthritis, Degenerative Joint Disease, Osteoarthritis, and Dysplasia are all terms used for abnormal joints in the body which have changed or “remodeled” over time due to laxity, overuse, or abnormal wear and tear.

New bone will begin to grow around a joint to try to stabilize any imperfections. This new bone growth is abnormal and causes friction, pain, and bone spurs.

Joints should move freely, in a smooth fashion which gives a person or an animal a good range of motion throughout their body.

When a dog is born with “bad hips” or has been athletic all his life, it takes a toll on his joints and remodeling occurs. Sporting breeds are more susceptible to genetic joint abnormalities, while cats and other species can become arthritic at any point during their lifetime.

Arthritis in cats tends to be overlooked because people who observe their cat moving less and sleeping more believe that it’s due to normal aging rather than a pain-induced medical condition.

Radiology is the best tool to accurately assess degenerative joint disease in dogs and cats.

With the high level of diagnostic radiology available to veterinarians today, arthritis and other joint conditions can be readily seen and diagnosed with two or three X-ray views.

Radiographic changes, however, do not always correlate to the signs of pain we see in our pets.

I have seen dogs with some of the worst signs of hip dysplasia and arthritis on an X-ray yet the dog is outwardly happy, playful and does not appear to be in much pain.

On the other hand, I have seen dogs that are so debilitated by the pain of arthritis they can hardly walk, but radiographically they have very few visible signs of arthritis in their joints.

There are many treatment options when it comes to improving the quality of life of our pets who experience pain, inflammation and decreased mobility as a result of this condition.

Medications, joint supplements, diets that contain higher levels of joint health ingredients and other treatment modalities can now be combined to make our pets more comfortable.

Here are some of the treatment options available:

  • Analgesics/Pain medications made specifically for dogs or for cats (never give your dog or cat a human medication unless specifically advised by your veterinarian)
  • Anti-inflammatory Medications
  • Injections for Joint Health
  • Exercise Plans
  • Therapeutic and Joint Health Diets
  • Supplements like Glucosamine and Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Physical Rehabilitation/Swimming Programs
  • Weight Management
  • Surgical Options
  • Acupuncture and therapeutic laser treatments
  • Orthopedic and Specialty Veterinarian Referrals
  • Improved Bedding and Environmental changes

Combinations of the above treatment options are offered as a way to keep our pets comfortable and well cared for in their later life stages. If your pet is limping, having trouble moving around, won’t go up or down stairs, is reluctant to walk on slick floors, or having accidents outside a litter box (that may be harder for him to get in and out of), it’s time for a check-up with your veterinarian. These and any other signs of “aging” are important to share with your veterinarian even when your pet is in for routine care.

Together, we may be able to uncover a condition your pet can’t tell you about!