One of the most common problems we diagnose in older dogs and cats is arthritis. This condition can cause pain and discomfort for you pet due to inflammation and damage in the joint. However, with so many treatment options available, your pet does not have to suffer.
Arthritis will often have a slow onset and progression. It may be difficult to pick up on early arthritic changes, and cats can really hide pain associated with arthritis. So how can you know your dog or cat has arthritis? Here are some things you can watch out for as your pet ages:
- Slower to rise
- Trouble jumping on things
- Trouble or hesitation with stairs
- Sensitivity or unexpected aggression when touched in certain areas
- Decreased muscling in previously well-muscled area
- Unwillingness to run and play
If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms, we encourage you to schedule an appointment to have your pet examined. It is important to rule out other possible explanations such as orthopedic injury, back problems, infectious diseases, bone cancer, or metabolic conditions. Our veterinarians may recommend additional diagnostic testing such as a chemistry panel, complete blood count, tick-borne disease testing, and/or radiographs to further explore the symptoms. Bloodwork allows us to look for indications of underlying metabolic or possibly infectious processes. Additionally, labwork helps us assess whether your pet can tolerate certain prescription pain medications. Radiography is an incredibly helpful tool when working up a patient with suspected arthritis. Things such as arthritis, fractures, or lesions suggestive of cancer can be seen on radiographs. Based on the pattern and extent of the radiographic changes, our doctors can draw more definitive conclusions about the cause(s) of your pet’s discomfort.
When it comes to treating arthritis in dogs and cats, numerous options are available. The most successful treatments are ones that combine multiple modes of therapy. Here are some of the options our veterinarians may recommend for your pet:
- Weight management: Make sure your pet is at a healthy weight. Arthritic animals suffer more when they are carrying around extra weight. If your pet is overweight, be sure to ask our staff about our Weight Loss Incentive Program!
- Provide your pet with plenty of soft, padded bedding.
- Consider using ramps in place of stairs.
- Add non-skid surfaces (like grip rugs) on slippery floors.
- Raise food and water bowls.
- Nutritional management: Prescription diets are available for joint health and have been clinically proven to aid in arthritic relief. Here are some examples:
- Nutraceuticals (we recommend Synovi G4 or Dasuquin) – often these products need to be given for several weeks before a big difference is noticed.
- Regular, controlled exercise (tailored to the amount your pet can tolerate).
- Physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, or laser therapy may be useful adjunctive treatments.
- Disease Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs (DMOADs): These can slow or alter the progression of arthritis.
- Prescription pain medications.
With respect to prescription pain medications, we often will try medications from various classes of drugs. Since many of these drugs are metabolized by the liver and/or excreted through the kidney, it’s always important to understand an animal’s ability to process a drug prior to using the drug in that animal. You should always be sure to tell our staff about all medications and/or supplements your pet is taking so that we can avoid prescribing a medication that could create a problem with drug interactions. It is extremely important to remember dogs and cats are not humans – which means human over-the-counter pain medications could be very dangerous for your pet. Always check with our veterinarians before you give your pet any over-the-counter medications.
Do you feel your pet is suffering from arthritis? Then schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians today!
Additional Arthritis Resources:
- Arthritis in Dogs
- Arthritis in Cats
- Degenerative Joint Disease in Dogs
- Degenerative Joint Disease in Cats
- Arthritis and Nutrition for Dogs
- Osteoarthritis in Dogs – Joint Support with Nutraceuticals
- Osteoarthritis in Cats – Joint Support with Nutraceuticals
- Osteoarthritis in Dogs – Joint Support and Disease – Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs (DMOADs)
- Helping Your Dog with Osteoarthritis
Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS