Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, commonly called “arthtitis” is abnormal bony changes that occur at or near joints, often in response to chronic instability or trauma. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common diseases in geriatric dogs and cats present in greater than 50% of pets over 8 years of age and nearly 80% of pets over 12. Luckily, treatment options are increasing as we learn to recognize and understand this common disease.

What are the symptoms?
Pain is the most common symptom of osteoarthritis. Arthritis can also cause difficulty rising or walking, or a hunched stance. In cats, reluctance to jump is often noted.

How is it diagnosed?
Classically, osteoarthritis is diagnosed with xrays. Typical changes are bone spurs, remodeling (thickening) or lipping of bone at or near joints. Arthritis can also sometimes be diagnosed with palpation. Affected joints may be thickened, have decreased rang of motion (stiff), or have crepitus (crunching) when palpated.

Is arthritis curable?
Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is not curable. Once cartilage and bony changes are present, they are permanent.

Is arthritis painful?
Yes – Arthritis is painful. It is the most common cause of pain in older pets. Sadly, it is often undiagnosed and under treated.What treatments are available?

Luckily, treatment options for arthritis are numerous and increasing.

• Pain medications are a mainstay of arthritis treatments, especially in the early stages. Many pets with arthritis show dramatic and life changing improvement after only a few days on pain medications

 • Weight loss: Just like in people, being overweight and inactive greatly increases the load on joints, as well as the degree of inflammation. For many dogs, weight loss and simple leash walking can have considerable benefit. For cats, meal feeding is often effective at achieving weight loss. Most cats become considerably more active after losing weight.

• Exercise: It cannot be said enough that “motion is lotion”! Appropriate exercise decreases inflammation and promotes normal function in arthritic joints.

• Physical modalities, such as acupuncture, laser and massage: Physical medicine is the manipulation of tissues to effect anti-inflammatory and pain relief. Acupuncture, laser and massage are all options that have measurable benefit for patients with arthritis.

 • Supplements: Many supplements are available to help combat joint pain and inflammation. More and more of these supplements are undergoing scientific study, verifying their effectiveness. The most common of these are the glucosamine category, which is available in oral or injectable form. Other supplements, herbs and amino acids are showing promise in arthritis treatment in pets.

What should I expect?                                                                                                                                                                                                      Signs of arthritis are subtle at first, and are often interpreted as “normal aging”. These pets show decreased playfulness, mobility and energy level. They may interact with their families. They often gain weight due to their (laziness)

As arthritis progresses and pain increases, dogs and cats may show overt lameness, especially in the morning or after rest. They might stand in a hunched position or favor one leg.

In the late stages, pain will be obvious. These pets may become grouchy or even aggressive. Appetite will decrease; they may hide or shy away from being touched. Arthritis in the spine can lead to weakness of the back legs and urinary or fecal incontinence.

If you think your pet is suffering from arthritis, call Sage Veterinary Services for an in-home evaluation.