Understanding and Managing Arthritis

Did You Know?

  • Arthritis affects approximately 25% of our pet dog population
  • This increases to 50% of ALL dogs aged over 7 years
  • It is estimated that 55% of arthritis pain goes untreated
  • Up to 90% of older cats suffer from arthritis
  • Arthritis can be present long before our pets begin to show any symptoms

We have put together these 5 simple questions to help you decide if your pet needs help. If you answer YES to any of the below questions, then your pet could benefit from an Arthritis Consultation with one of the vets from The House Call Vet.

  1. Is your pet slow to rise after resting?
  2. Does your pet limp after exercise?
  3. Does your pet lick at any of their joints or limbs?
  4. Is your pet reluctant to exercise?
  5. Is your pet reluctant to jump?

If your pet is showing symptoms other than the ones listed above, why not give us a quick callcall to discuss your pet’s individual case?

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a broad term used to describe changes to the normal components of a healthy joint – specifically changes to the quality and quantity of cartilage and joint fluid.

In simple terms, cartilage covers the ends of the bones and acts as a ‘shock absorber’ during movement, while joint fluid fills the joint capsule to assist with lubrication of the joint.  As our pets age the cartilage and joint fluid are continually regenerated to ensure pain-free mobility. Arthritis occurs when this normal regeneration process is compromised resulting in the cartilage becoming thinner and more brittle. This can lead to pain and inflammation due to the lack of cushioning for the bones. At the same time, the joint fluid becomes thinner leading to poorer lubrication of the joint. Combined, these changes can cause symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain with obvious lameness. Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are several effective management techniques that can help to slow its progress.

Arthritis Management

Arthritis management is typically aimed at slowing the progression of the disease while ensuring our pets remain as comfortable as possible. We are strong supporters of early intervention when it comes to arthritis. Usually, the longer an animal has arthritis and the more obvious the symptoms, the harder it can be to provide relief. Fortunately, we now have medications available for regenerating cartilage, and arthritis injections available to improve the quality of joint fluid. Anti-inflammatories are also a useful addition for relief of acute flare ups or for more severe cases. Used singly or in combination, these techniques can give many pets a second lease on life.

Treatment often encompasses a range of lifestyle changes, ‘at-home’ nursing care and medical support and is dependent on the severity and discomfort affecting our pets. In all cases, there are simple things we can all do at home to help manage our fur-babies suffering from arthritis.

  1. Weight Management
    One of the most common contributors to arthritis is excess weight. The lighter we keep our pets, the less pressure there is on their arthritic joints, and the more comfortable our pets will therefore be. If you think your pet may be a little overweight, it’s best to get in touch with us early so that we can get the scales moving back in the right direction!
  2. Physiotherapy, Hydrotherapy and Exercise
    These are great options to help keep our pets active and joints healthy. Regular gentle exercise is the best way to support muscle strength while keeping the joints moving. Nowadays, there are even animal physiotherapists available for more severe cases as well as hydrotherapy pools and treadmills!
  3. Bedding & Warmth
    Soft, warm, comfortable bedding is especially important during the cooler months to alleviate the morning and evening stiffness that can be associated with arthritis. A dog coat is also a great idea to help keep our pets warm.
  4. Some Simple Tricks
    There are many simple things can be done around the home to help our arthritic pets.  Elevating the food and water bowls can be a huge relief for pets suffering from neck, shoulder or elbow arthritis. Using non-slip matting and ramps around the house is another great way to help elderly pets get around. Similarly, simply keeping our pets nails trimmed can assist them when rising or walking on slippery surfaces such as floorboards or tiles.In addition to the above techniques, there is a vast range of supplements, injections and pain relief medications available to manage our arthritic pets.
  5. 4Cyte
    4cyte is a new generation dietary supplement from the company that makes Sasha’s Blend. Likes Sasha’s Blend, 4Cyte contains the traditional joint ‘building blocks’ (chondroitin & glucosamine) but has the added benefit of a newer ingredient – Epitalis, a conifer seed oil. This new, unique ingredient is proven to generate new cartilage in an arthritic joint. Additionally, 4cyte contains Green-Lipped Mussel extract, which has been demonstrated to offer potent pain relief after 8 weeks of continuous use. 4cyte is palatable to most pets, easily added to food and, at 40c-$1 a day, is a cost effective treatment. It is a great option for all stages of arthritis management although has the most benefit in mild to moderate cases.
  6. Arthritis Injections (Cartrophen or Zydax)
    Arthritis injections are used to help support joint fluid while slowing the progression of the disease. Interestingly, these injections only target joints affected with arthritis! A course of 4 injections one week apart are used initially followed by repeat injections every 3-6 months depending on how your pet is progressing. It is often a good idea to treat our pets in the lead up to the cooler winter months. These arthritis injections are useful for any stage of arthritis management although, depending on severity, may not work as well as hoped in all cases.
  7. Pain Relief Medications
    Just like us, in some cases of arthritis we may need to prescribe a course of a pain relieving anti-inflammatory medication after diagnosis or for flare ups. Although safe, we ideally only use these as required with your pet being comfortably managed with arthritis injections, lifestyle changes and food supplements.

Each individual animal is different and a variable combination of lifestyle changes and medications may be required. During an arthritis consultation, our vets carefully tailor a management program specifically for your pet. Together, we strongly believe that we can improve and extend the lives of our elderly pets, and ensure that they remain comfortable and happy in their senior years!

If you would like to arrange an appointment, or simply ask some additional questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch or book now.

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