How Can We Treat Arthritis?
You may have heard about arthritis. You may have thought it was a faraway thing, only for the really old pets. Except that arthritis can begin in one-year-olds and end up causing huge issues by the time your pet is middle-aged.

This is because arthritis is an interesting disease. Arthritis by definition is simply inflammation of the joint. Therefore, there is no singular cause, but many different processes can contribute to it. For example, some dogs have anatomical issues which cause inappropriate bone-on-bone contact in joints such as in hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and luxating patellas. In other cases, it may be because the pet is overweight and causing extra stress on the joints, and in some instances it can even be because of infections in the joint! By far the most common cause of arthritis in our pets are due to degenerative changes which occur as part of the normal ageing process (just like in us humans!)

Regardless of what the cause is, the inflammation within the joint slowly eats away at the cartilage and leads to long term damage. Unfortunately, once the cartilage is gone, it doesn’t grow back.

This is why it is extremely important that once a diagnosis of arthritis has been made, whether mild or severe, that a multifaceted management plan is developed to help slow down the disease progression. This will help ensure your furbaby is able to move and play with as little pain as possible and can enjoy the quality of life they deserve.

So, how do we prevent and/or manage arthritis?
There’s no one way to prevent arthritis, just as there isn’t just one cause.
However, before we launch into the full list of what we can do, note that in some cases, such as in badly infected joints or severely unstable joints, surgery is the only way to treat and prevent the onset of terrible arthritis.

1. Weight Loss
Your pet’s weight has a huge effect on how much stress is placed onto the joints. Therefore ensuring your pet stays within a healthy weight range is extremely crucial in arthritis management. In fact, studies have shown that despite the myriad of interventions we use to manage arthritis (including painkillers!) no other intervention has a greater effect on arthritic pain than weight loss.

Some prescription diets can help with this. One of our favourites is Hill’s Metabolic + Mobility which combines supplementation of omega-3’s with weight control.

2. Nutraceuticals
Supplements are really popular with paw-rents to help reduce inflammation in the joint and help provide the building blocks for healthy joints.

Within the scientific literature the supplement which has the most evidence to reduce joint inflammation and slow down degeneration is Omega-3 supplements. The product we recommend is the Paws Fish Oil Veterinary Strength or 4cyte. It is important to use a pet specific fish oil as the optimal balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for dogs & cats is different from human formulations.

There are many other nutraceuticals that are quite popular such as chondroitin sulphate, glucosamine, green lipped mussel, ASU’s. Please keep in mind, for many of these supplements there is limited evidence for their effectiveness, and some dogs may respond better than others. Generally speaking, most nutraceuticals given in the right dose do not have negative side effects, but please always consult your veterinarian before commencing.

3. Physiotherapy
Just as in humans, physiotherapy is very important! We love physiotherapy so much, we wrote a whole blog on it. The exercises and therapies a physiotherapist can be pivotal in both reducing inflammation in the short term as well as improving your furbaby’s ability to bear weight evenly. In the long term, the goal is also to strengthen the musculature surrounding the affected joints to improve their function and reduce pain.

The important thing here is ensuring your physiotherapist is properly trained! Have a chat with your veterinarian to make sure the physiotherapist you’ve chosen is suitable for you and your furbaby. Better yet, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation!

4. Pentosan Polysulphate Injections
Pentosan polysulphate is an injectable agent which relieves inflammation in joints by improving circulation to the cartilage and breaking the inflammatory cycle. The initial course of injections involves four injections, one week apart. In some cases, the effect can last up to a year! One thing to keep in mind, is that the beneficial effects usually only are obvious near the end of the course. Interestingly enough – despite pentosan polysulphate being used to manage pet’s osteoarthritis for many years, studies are currently being completed to evaluate its use for human osteoarthritis!

5. Medication
In tough times – like winter – medications are a tremendously useful tool. We can use medication to actively break the inflammatory cycle. We can also use medications to manage the pain your furbaby feels. This doesn’t mean we want to use medications all the time. We often use medications together with the other therapies we’ve listed above. The key is tailoring a plan to each furbaby, because each furbaby is so different!

So what does this all mean…?
As you can see, there are numerous avenues to manage arthritis in our pets. Generally speaking, the more holistic and multifaceted our management strategy, the more effective it will be. Therefore if your furbaby has been sore recently, please have a chat with your veterinarian.

Arthritis is really, really painful and you can make such a difference in your furbaby’s quality of life by working together with your veterinarian.

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Our team is here to answer your questions and get an appointment scheduled for you.

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