What is Osteoarthritis (“arthritis”)

Osteoarthritis refers to Inflammation in the joints, as well as degenerative changes. The condition can arise from many causes, such as:

  • General wear and tear over time
  • Poor conformation (abnormal position and function of the joint) e.g Luxating patella, hip dysplasia.
  • Previous surgery
  • Injury or trauma to the joint
  • Genetic factors and lifestyle

Joints with Osteoarthritis have reduced fluid and joint space, causing friction in the joint during movement. This friction causes trauma to cartilage and other structures in the joint, and lead to inflammation and pain.

What are the signs of osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis can cause many different clinical signs, or in some pets the signs are not visible and can only be seen on radiographs (X-rays). Some indications your pet may have arthritis include:

  • Pain / limping on one or more limbs
  • Difficulty getting up and down from the ground/ bed
  • Reluctance to jump on and off the couch / bed / into the car or becoming slower in these movements
  • “slowing down” on walks or generally reduced activity
  • Trembling or shaking, crying or whimpering
  • Sleeping more often
  • Licking their limbs / joints
  • Reduced appetite and desire to go for walks / play
  • Pain response when bend or touch joints
  • Guarding their hind area (back legs) or becoming more aggressive when approached by people or other dogs/cats.

How is Osteoarthritis diagnosed?

Radiographs (Xrays) are the best way to determine the extent of arthritis in your pet, and can also provide your Veterinarian with information on conformation problems and sometimes soft tissue injuries inside the joint. It is also often possible to tentatively diagnose arthritis on a physical examination by your Veterinarian, combined with information from you about your pet’s activity and behavior at home. Osteoarthritis will progress with age, so regular check-ups with your veterinarian to assess and re-assess your pets condition are important.

Treatment and prevention

  1. Lifestyle changes

Keeping your pet at a lean body condition is very important to reduce stress on the joints. Keep your pet mobile by providing regular walks (dogs), with focus on slow gentle exercise rather than fast paced and irregular play (ie avoid off leash ball throwing or play, in place of gentle leash walks). Once or twice daily gentle walks are much more beneficial than a once-a-week ball play session. Vigorous play and exercise can damage the joints further. Swimming is a great exercise option. Provide soft comfortable bedding.

  1. Oral Supplements

There are many oral supplements that can assist arthritis. Talk to your vet about which supplements are recommended. 4cyte is our preferred supplement due to the added ingredient of Epiitalis – combined with marine ingredients in the supplement, it has a synergistic effect to reduce and reverse cartilage degeneration. Other supplements such as Glucosamine/Chondroitin, Tumeric and Fish Oil can also be beneficial. Some premium diets contain supplements, such as Hills J/d.

Supplements are recommended as an ADJUNCT to medical management of your pet, and are usually only recommended as a solo treatment option in very mild cases of arthritis.

  1. Pentosan Polysulphate ( “Cartrophen” or “Synovan”)

Pentosan Polysulphate injections may be recommended by your vet. These injections have benefits such as stimulating the production of joint fluid, stimulating blood supply, anti-inflammatory action and regeneration of cartilage in the joints. These effects can improve pain and slow the progression of osteoarthritis. The are ideally used long term for best effect, with a course of 4 injections over 4 weeks. The course should be repeated every 4, 6 or 12 months depending on the severity of arthritis. Your vet may also recommend booster injections once per month, in addition to the full course cycles.

  1. NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) / “Anti-inflammatories”

NSAIDs are often a very important part of an arthritis treatment plan, and reduce pain for your pet. They will keep your pet more comfortable, reduce pain and improve mobility. Long term use of NSAIDs will require your vet to monitor your pet’s kidney function. These medications should always be given with food to reduce gastric ulcers. Monitoring will involve a blood and urine test every 6-12 months, as advised by your vet.

  1. Extra / other pain relief

When osteoarthritis progresses with age, or for pets who are unable to take NSAIDs, other pain relief in addition to, or in place of NSAIDs may be required. Some examples include Tramadol Hydrochloride, Gabapentin and Opiates. These medications can have some sedative effect and an appropriate dose will be formulated by your vet, and can be adjusted depending on side effects.

  1. Physiotherapy, acupuncture and Hydrotherapy

This is an emerging area of arthritis management in pets. Bulimba Vet Surgery has a Rehabilitation Facility in our hospital named Rebound. The facility is run by a dedicated Rehabilitation Veterinarian. An assessment and treatment plan may involve massage, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, Core strength, joint mobilisation and balance training. Bookings can be made through our clinic to have your pet assessed and determine what treatments may be of benefit. The facility also offers programs for pets recovering from surgery.

A link the rebound website is: www.reboundpetrehab.com

If you notice that your pet tires easily or has trouble breathing while walking, be sure to bring that to the attention of your veterinarian.  If you would like any more information or to book a consultation with the vet call the clinic on 3899 1495 or email info@bulimbavet.com