Let’s talk Arthritis!

Whilst it’s a term I’m sure we have all heard before, your pet getting diagnosed with osteoarthritis can still be a worrying and confusing time for owners. Thankfully, there are more and more options and resources out there for owners than ever before. This is a broad topic and one I have a lot of interest in, so we’ll likely have more posts about it in future!

Chocolate Labrador happily running down road

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a very common disease of the joint, in which the joint cartilage starts going through degenerative changes. It’s one of the biggest causes of pain in dogs, and whilst it is more common in older animals, it can happen in younger animals too. Unfortunately, it is not curable.

Signs of arthritis:

Animals compromise very well during the early stages of arthritis, so most owners don’t notice changes. You may see signs of your pet getting slower, or less willing to exercise, but animals can be very stoic and not show any signs of discomfort until the disease has significantly progressed. Have a chat with your veterinarian if you notice your pet starting to;

– slow down
– become less tolerant of exercise
– change posture
– have difficulty staying in the same position
– have muscle changes
– develop lameness
– act differently

Small animals may also;

– lick their joints
– start pacing at night
– sleep more than normal
Arthritis affects every individual differently. They don’t always vocalise pain. Due to this, it’s important to stay vigilant, especially with animals more prone to arthritis.

Factors that contribute to arthritis:

There are several things that can contribute to your animal developing arthritis, and not all of them are owner caused. These factors include;

– poor conformation (how your animal is “put together”)
– obesity
– high intensity exercise over a long period, or too much too soon
– previous injury or infection of the joint or bone
– repetitive, high impact movement (such as fetch)

What can be done?

Although osteoarthritis is not curable, a management plan can be put in place to slow its progress. It is a painful disease so make sure you work with your vet to find the right pain management approach. There are always new medicines being developed for the treatment of osteoarthritis in animals so one medication may not work for you, another might.
Lifestyle changes have a major impact in the management of arthritis. Are your floors slippy? Does your yard have severe corners? Are there a lot of steps? Are we feeding too many extra treats? If you’re unsure about whether your house or yard is appropriate for your arthritic animal, we offer assessment visits so feel free to get in touch!

Can physiotherapy do anything for osteoarthritis?

Absolutely! Routine appointments with your animal physiotherapist can increase your animal’s quality of life and therefore extend the amount of time you have with them. We have a range of modalities to keep your animal comfortable, as well as being able to develop a controlled exercise plan.

Something to keep in mind:

Prevention of osteoarthritis is much easier than management. There will be another post on this later on, but if you would like to learn more in the mean time, get in touch!

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