Arthritis and Pets 101

Could your dog suffer from canine arthritis? Absolutely.

It is estimated that about 20%-25% of all dogs in the United States suffer from canine arthritis, or what is more properly termed as degenerative joint disease (DJD). This disease is progressive and creates permanent deterioration of the cartilage within the joint. It can be caused from the natural aging process or as a result of secondary causes like an injury. This disease develops gradually over time, causing your dog pain and potentially preventing him or her from even simple activities, such as walking, running or climbing stairs. Just getting up from a laying down position may create discomfort.

Genetics can play a role in predisposition to developing osteoarthritis. Some breeds are more susceptible – and not just large breeds. Small breeds can suffer from DJD as well. Cats are not immune from this disease either, though it is less prevalent in cats and as owners we are less likely to observe subtle changes in our already sedate older cat.

Signs or symptoms that you may observe in your dog suffering from arthritis can include:

  • lagging behind on walks
  • lower activity levels
  • sluggishness, or seeming to tire more easily
  • reluctance to fully extend rear legs,
  • soreness and reluctance to walk or run
  • not wanting to climb stairs
  • decreased jumping or playing
  • aggressive or withdrawn behavior or other personality or behavioral changes

So, if your dog is exhibiting some of these signs or symptoms, what can be done?  First, you will want to take your pet to your veterinarian for a complete physical examination. Your veterinarian may want to conduct one or more of the following diagnostic tests:

  • radiographs (x-rays)
  • arthroscopic exam
  • MRI
  • blood panels to ensure other pre-existing diseases are not present limiting potential medication options

Although research is constantly underway, there is no cure for osteoarthritis – but it can be managed and your pet’s quality of life can be good. To provide this level of comfort and help your dog’s ability to function, your veterinarian may recommend a combination of weight control with appropriate diets, controlled exercise and physical therapy (yes there are veterinary physical therapists) and different types of medications to manage pain and inflammation which may include pharmaceutical type medications. There are many oral once-daily dog- or cat-specific medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are frequently used to treat osteoarthritis. Pain medications may be recommended either alone or in combination, depending on the severity and progression of the disease and if there are any underlying causes for the DJD.

Some treatment options offer a more neutriceutical, or nutritional, approach. This utilizes fatty acid supplements to the diet, adding in a glucosamine/chondroitin combination, using creatine ethyl ester compounds, or using injectable polysulfated glycosaminogly can products to name a few. Vetscription Joint-Eze Plus from Sergeant’s is a very effective option, and one that you can easily find at grocery or mass retail stores. They contain chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine. They are soft chews that dogs enjoy eating. Don’t forget that while neutriceuticals like Joint-Eze Plus can help dogs who already show symptoms of osteoarthritis, they are also very helpful in maintaining joint health in young and mid-life dogs as well. That will help them avoid the pain that comes with the ailment later.

Bottom line: through a joint effort between you and your veterinarian, this debilitating disease can be managed, which will greatly enhancing your pet’s quality of life. With the appropriate medications, therapy and supplements, you can help to restore that enjoyment and zest for life that your dog deserves. Together we can keep those tails wagging.


Photo credit: From Flickr by Kezee

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