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Arthritis in dogs

So many human medical conditions also occur in companion animals – including arthritis. Did you know arthritis affects one in every five adult dogs and it’s one of the most common sources of chronic pain veterinarians treat?

Arthritis results from the wearing down of the cartilage lining affected joints and a decrease in the synovial fluid (lubricating oil) within those joints. Causes are varied and include damage due to old age, injury, and growing or inherited defects such as elbow and hip dysplasia.

How do you know your pet may be suffering the painful effects of arthritis? Symptoms include:

  • Favouring a limb (limping), difficulty getting up and down, sitting or standing
  • Stiff and sore joints, often more obvious in winter
  • Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
  • Decreased activity and disinterest in play, often leading to an increase in weight
  • Changes in attitude or behaviour.

Many owners associate these symptoms with old age, rather than chronic pain, and (incorrectly) assume there is little that can be done.

If you suspect your dog is showing signs of arthritis, a physical examination, which may include X-rays, is advisable. Diagnosing the problem and starting an early treatment/prevention plan can help ease the pain and slow the progression of the disease.

The good news is that, as in human medicine, there are now excellent, effective arthritis treatments for pets, but before discussing treatment it’s best if you can work with our vets to tackle your pet’s arthritis with a complete health plan.

This means ensuring your dog is not overweight. The loss of weight in obese dogs can make a huge difference and it’s often exciting for everyone – pet, owner and vet – when a previously overweight and miserably stiff and sore dog gets a bounce back into his step just through weight loss. The dog usually begins to feel more like exercising and as long as this is managed with the level of joint damage, this can help maintain appropriate weight.

Arthritis treatments are varied and must be prescribed by a vet and managed according to the level and type of arthritis.

NEVER be tempted to give human medication to pets. Drugs safe for humans – such as Paracetamol – can kill cats and dogs.

Most treatments are targeted at relieving pain while improving the quality of cartilage and joint fluid, cartilage cell production and blood supply and nutrients to the joint. They include animal-specific arthritis supplements such as Sasha’s Blend (glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate), the anti-inflammatory compound pentosan polysulphate (given as a course of injections over 1 month then as required by the dog’s response), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Joint-specific or mobility support diets are also now available, including the Hill’s J/D Science Diet and prescription diets from Royal Canin.