Arthritis results from inflammation in the joints and can be divided into two different types, degenerative arthritis and inflammatory arthritis. Because degenerative arthritis is the most common form, our discussion will be limited to this type of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis results from damage or destruction of the cartilage cushion that protects the bones that make up the joints. Cartilage destruction can be the result of normal stress on abnormal joints, or abnormal stress on normal joints. Hip dysplasia (a malformation of the hip sockets), and patellar luxations (loose knee caps) are examples of normal stress on abnormal joints. Abnormal stress on normal joints results from direct trauma, constant jumping over obstacles, stretching or tearing ligaments during strenuous exercise, or injuries in a fall or accident.
Degenerative arthritis may take years to present itself. Cartilage has no nerve endings and damage can progress with no outward signs until the joint is severely compromised and the lubricating fluid has thinned enough to lose its ability to protect the bone surfaces. The result is joint pain and discomfort in normal daily activity.
Reluctance to jump or play
Difficulty with or total inability to climb stairs
Lagging behind on walks
Difficulty rising from a resting position
Yelping in pain when touched
Personality change, especially resistance to being touched
Radiographs (x-rays) are the initial starting point for diagnosis of arthritis. Most arthritic patients are older animals, so complete bloodwork should be done as well. If infectious or immune-mediated arthritis is suspected, tests for tick-borne diseases as well as joint taps (removing a small amount of joint fluid with a sterile needle for culture and cytology) will need to be performed prior to treatment.
NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) therapy
This is a medical therapy that includes the use of drugs such as Metacam, Previcox and Rimadyl, among others. This is the staple of arthritis treatment. Long-term use of any of these drugs requires periodic blood tests to evaluate liver and kidney function, but most dogs do very well on these drugs with little or no side effects. One drug may not be effective for all patients, so sometimes a trial of different NSAIDs is necessary to find the most beneficial drug.
Glucosamine acts as a building block of cartilage by supplying a key nutrient that keeps cartilage cells healthy and functioning properly. Chondroitin sulfate works by helping to block the enzymes that break down cartilage. The combination of these products repairs and rebuilds joint cartilage and increases the production of normal joint lubricating fluid. This results in increased mobility and decreased joint pain. Use of these products early in the course of arthritis treatment can actually delay the need to use anti-inflammatory drugs. Several veterinary glucosamine products are available including Cosequin, Arthrimaxx and Synovi G3 chews which are all found in the Merrick Veterinary Group pharmacy.
Diet plays an important role in arthritis treatment, especially when your pet is overweight. Excess weight causes more stress on the joints and exacerbates existing arthritis pain. We carry several different weight loss and weight control prescription diets to help you get your pet to a healthy weight and then maintain it.
When arthritis is diagnosed, and treatment is initiated, owners should make sure their pets get plenty of rest and are not asked to perform painful exercises during treatment and recuperation. Exercise can one day become a part of your pet's life again, however, ultimately the type and duration of exercise may have to be restricted to reduce the pain of arthritis as much as possible.
Other Pain Relievers
Sometimes NSAID therapy, glucosamine supplements,and restricted diet and exercise are not enough to keep pets with severe arthritis comfortable. There are additional medications that can be used. These additional medications are usually reserved for severe cases of end-stage arthritis.
If you think your pet is suffering from arthritis and is not currently being treated, please call us at 516-379-6200 to schedule an appointment today.