The Pet Corner: Causes and treatment for pet arthritis
The weather has made abrupt changes recently. One week the weather consists of 70 degree temperatures and beautiful sunny days. The next week’s weather is cold and rainy days and near below-freezing nights.
Subsequently, my right elbow has been constantly aching and even producing sharp pains from time to time.
Thanks to arthritis it is not an old wives tale when someone says they can tell it is going to rain soon because their knees are hurting.
Just like many ailments, pets get arthritis, too.
Arthritis is a complex condition involving inflammation of one or more joints. There are many causes of arthritis in pets. The likelihood and severity of arthritis is related to the age of the pet.
There are different kinds of arthritis.
Primary arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, is genetic condition causing cartilage and bone erosion within the affected joints.
Secondary arthritis is a condition resulting from joint instability that leads to damage of the bone within the joint. Secondary arthritis is the most common form found in pets.
Osteoarthritis, which is secondary arthritis and is also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis in pets.
Common causes of DJD are hip dysplasia, ligament rupture and other kinds of joint trauma.
Joint infection, often as a result of bite wounds, causes similar arthritis. Infective arthritis can be caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi. It usually only affects a single joint and causes swelling, heat and pain in the joint.
With infective arthritis, your pet is likely to stop eating and become depressed.
In general, the larger the pet, the more likely it is they will develop arthritis.
Hip dysplasia is a primarly genetic condition where the hip joint changes shape.
The hip is a “ball and socket joint.” With hip dysplasia, the ball becomes rough and less round and the socket becomes shallower.
The rough and irregular shape to the joint reduces joint mobility and causes pain.
Hip dysplasia is most common in large-breed dogs. Certain breeds, such as German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and collies, are more prone to hip dysplasia. Dogs which are overweight also struggle more with arthritis.
Symptoms of arthritis can vary. Pets seem to have a greater tolerance for pain than their owners. Some pets show little or no sign until it has progressed to severe arthritis.
The typical symptoms include difficulty getting up, walking slow, walking stiff-legged, walking crouched down in the rear end and whimpering while getting up.
Symptoms in cats may be less obvious. Often they will just lie around and are less active.
Treatment depends on the cause of arthritis.
Primary arthritis liis usually treated with high doses of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive agents.
Infective arthritis is treated with antibiotics which usually must be administered for a minimum of a month.
Other pain relief medications are necessary to combat pain and inflammation. The typical secondary osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis, is treated with analgesics such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
It is important to select these medications with care since some pets are more sensitive than others to the potential side-effects of analgesics.
The most common side-effects include decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. These medications can also cause harm to the kidneys and liver, so it is important to have blood tests performed to make sure the pet can safely metabolize and eliminate the medication. Periodic blood tests are necessary to ensure continued safe usage.
Other medications called glucosamine, a joint supplement, are used to actually “remodel” the joint surface and produce more joint fluid. These medications are more effective if used daily and long term.
Treatment modalities such as acupuncture have become very effective for the treatment of pet’s arthritis.
Stem cell therapy is the most modern and technologically advanced treatment available now for pets.
If your pet shows any signs of arthritis, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure your pet lives a long, healthy and healthy life.
Dr. Jeff Castle is a veterinarian at Clark County Veterinary Clinic.