Arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis (OA) in pets, is a chronic, painful, inflammatory joint condition characterized by cartilage loss, osteophyte (i.e., bone spur) formation, and a thickened joint capsule. OA is the most common arthritis type in dogs and cats, and has been reported in “20 percent of all dogs over 1 year of age, based on data collected from 200 veterinarians” in North America. In pets, OA is most commonly associated with preexisting joint problems, namely, hip and elbow dysplasia, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), patellar luxation, and cruciate ligament conditions. However, weight, genetics, and other factors also play a role in arthritis development, while some pets suffer from this uncomfortable disease despite the absence of any contributing factors.
At Groves Veterinary Clinic, we know a thing or two about managing arthritis—and how to help you help your pet. While OA cannot be reversed, numerous management options are available for this debilitating disease, thanks to veterinary medical advancements. For most pets, a multi-modal approach with several different treatments is key. If your pet is diagnosed with OA, we may discuss the following therapies with you, to keep your pet pain-free and thriving.
- Weight management and exercise program — Obesity is a growing problem in our nation’s pets, and also a big contributor to worsening arthritis. Bearing excess weight on already painful joints is an increasingly uncomfortable experience that our pets don’t deserve. With regular, mild exercise, and a tailored diet and exercise program, you can help your pet shed pounds, and get a spring back in their step. We will help you by offering food recommendations, portion sizes, and advice on cutting back on treats. We will also help you develop an appropriate exercise program, such as swimming or leash walking, that will challenge your pet gently, and suit your lifestyle.
- Anti-inflammatory medication — Because of OA’s highly inflammatory nature, medications often play a vital role in managing disease progression and pain. Our veterinary team will work with you to determine which of the many drugs on the market will work best for your individual pet. Never give your dog or cat a human anti-inflammatory or pain medication, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin, as these can lead to dangerous side effects.
- Joint supplements — Research in the supplement field is ongoing, with nutraceuticals (i.e., medicinally and nutritionally derived foods), vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids topping the list of common over-the-counter consumer products. While the exact process that leads these products to help manage OA is largely unknown, chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and omega-3 fatty acids remain popular components of OA therapy plans.
- Disease-modulating agents — Joint or muscle injections of platelet-rich plasma, polysulfated glycosaminoglycans (PSGAGS), and stem cells may also help slow OA progression in pets, although further research is needed to better understand these mechanisms.
- Physical rehabilitation — Physical rehabilitation involves specific exercises, stretching, underwater treadmill use, or swimming to alleviate pain and strengthen muscles, which helps pets with OA feel better, and move more efficiently. Many canine rehabilitation practitioners now also offer cold laser therapy, which can increase cellular metabolism, leading to analgesia and tissue regeneration.
- Acupuncture — Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical approach that is now being used more frequently for pets. Acupuncture works by inserting tiny needles into “meridians” (i.e., crossroads) in the body, typically where nerves and blood vessels converge. Stimulating these areas can encourage blood and lymph flow, promoting natural anti-inflammation and pain relief.
- Chiropractic care — By adjusting subluxations along the spine, veterinary chiropractors can help pets achieve improved joint mobility. Studies show that chiropractic care can also decrease certain inflammatory cytokines in the body, thereby reducing pain and delaying arthritis progression.
If your pet develops abnormalities, such as limping, difficulty rising or jumping, or an abnormal gait, they could have an orthopedic problem. At Groves Veterinary Clinic, we are dedicated to helping pets overcome painful orthopedic conditions, such as hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate disease, and OCD, that often lead to osteoarthritis without treatment.
Whether you have a young cat with a congenital joint condition, or a senior dog with chronic arthritis, Dr. Groves and our skilled veterinary team are here to help you manage your pet’s orthopedic problem. Contact us for more information, or to schedule a consultation.