Arthritis in Pets

Did you know that 20% of middle aged pets and 90% of geriatric pets suffer from arthritis?  Arthritis causes pain and limited mobility in pets.  It is important to recognize the signs of arthritis in pets as well as understand prevention and management.


What is Arthritis?

Arthritis, also referred to as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, is the result of chronic wear and tear to joints.  Excessive wear on joints can damage the joint cartilage, which lines the bones and provides cushion to the joint.  When cartilage is thin, damage occurs to the bones.  This damage causes chronic inflammation and pain in the joint.


What are the Symptoms of Arthritis?

The most obvious symptom of arthritis is limping.  A pet limping on one or more legs may be a sign of arthritis.  Sometimes, however, the symptoms are much more subtle.  Pets who seem to ‘slow down’ could also have arthritis.  Animals are stoic and hide their pain, so sometimes they may not show obvious symptoms.  Stiffness after getting up, or less energy, may be signs of sore joints.  Cats may not jump onto higher furniture as often, or may appear lazy.  Cats may also be reluctant to use a litterbox due to joint pain.  The best way to determine if a pet is suffering from arthritis is a thorough examination by a veterinarian.  Sometimes X-Rays are needed to differentiate between arthritis of a joint, injury, or other condition.


How is Arthritis Treated?

Treatment of arthritis depends of the severity as well as what joints are affected.  If a pet is overweight the extra weight adds more pressure to joints.  Weight loss in overweight pets is crucial for reducing arthritis pain.

Anti-Inflammatory Medication

Medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), can reduce the pain and inflammation in arthritic joints.  Never give pets human medications, including over the counter NSAIDS.  Many human medications, like Ibuprofen and Tylenol, are harmful or deadly to pets!  At Spring Branch Veterinary Hospital, one of the NSAIDS we use for dogs with chronic arthritis is Meloxidyl.  It is important to have a conversation with your veterinarian about the use of long term NSAIDS and your pet’s health.

Joint Supplements

Dasuquin chewable for geriatric animal careQuality joint supplements are very beneficial to long term joint health in pets.  Joint supplements are nutritional supplements that offer support to maintaining healthy joints.  The most important ingredients in joint supplements include Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, and Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).  Studies show that joint supplements help the production of healthy joint fluid, and help protect joints from damage.  Not all joint supplements are created equal!  The active ingredients are not monitored by the FDA in over the counter products and many products contain very little active ingredients.  At Spring Branch Veterinary Hospital we use Dasuquin, which is an excellent brand.

Other Treatments

Another treatment for advanced arthritis in pets is Adequan.  Adequan is a series of intramuscular injections administered by a veterinarian.  It helps restore healthy cartilage and increase healthy joint fluid.  Laser Therapy is also used for advanced arthritis.  Laser Therapy reduces inflammation and pain in arthritic joints.  Physical therapy can sometimes be useful for regaining muscle use in severe cases.  Pets with severe arthritis may sometimes require additional pain medication for comfort.


How to Prevent Arthritis in Pets

Speak with us or your veterinarian about your pet’s risk factors for arthritis.  Many large breed dogs are more prone to arthritis as they age.  It can be beneficial to keep large breed dogs on joint supplements for their entire adult life.  Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for preventing arthritis.  Overweight pets are much more prone to arthritis than pets at a healthy weight.  Omega-3 Fatty Acid Fish Oil supplementation is also beneficial to joint health.  Welactin is a very good supplement for dogs and cats that contains a quality source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

If you would like to discuss arthritis in your pet or risk factors for arthritis please call us at 830-438-7800 for an appointment.  Keeping your pet happy and healthy is our number one priority at Spring Branch Veterinary Hospital.

Megan Hughes, DVM