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Dealing With Dog and Cat Arthritis

Photo of a small furry dog laying down to illustrate an article about dog and cat arthritis.

Before we talk about dog and cat arthritis, we need to talk about your little one’s articulation. The joints have an extremely important function in your furkiddo’s body. They help cushion the impact between the bones as they move around, allowing movement, which is assisted by the lubrication provided by synovial fluid in them. 

What is Dog and Cat Arthritis?

Over time and with stressors such as genetics and obesity, the cartilage can deteriorate, and the synovial fluid loses its lubricating properties, so the movement of the bones becomes limited and uncomfortable. As a result, the joints tend to get a worn and uneven surface, which makes the bones rub against each other, causing swelling and pain. When this happens, we have a condition called arthritis (or osteoarthritis) which affects joints and causes them to become swollen, stiff, and extremely painful. 

What are the Clinical Signs of Arthritis?

There are a couple of signs that can indicate that your cat or dog is starting to develop arthritis, such as:

  • Difficulty and hesitance in getting up and down
  • Reluctance in taking the stairs or jumping
  • Stiff walk 
  • Limping
  • Yelping
  • Swollen or sore joints
  • Aggressive behavior (especially when you’re touching the affected areas)
  • Excessive licking of the joints
  • Lethargy and depression

What are the Diagnostic Tests?

Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose osteoarthritis through a combination of physical examination and additional diagnostics tests, if needed, such as X-rays or other imaging technology. This is an essential step to establish a proper treatment since the diagnosis will help rule out other conditions, such as bone cancer. These tests will also show the severity of the disease and help your veterinarian choose the best approach to manage your little one’s arthritis condition.

What are the Treatment Options for Arthritis?

It is essential to keep in mind that there is still no cure for arthritis, unfortunately. There are, however, many different options to help manage this condition by relieving pain, providing comfort, and slowing down its progression. Here are a couple of examples:

Photo of an overweight dog laying down to talk about dog and cat arthritis

Diet and Nutrition: The first step to managing arthritis is to make sure that your dog is not overweight or obese. Any extra weight will make your pet put unnecessary pressure on the joints, which will cause even more inflammation and irritation in the area. Depending on age and health condition, you may need to adjust your dog’s caloric intake. The diet will have to be adapted to the reduced activity level due to arthritis, and/or a change in the food can be considered in order to provide better nutritional support for this specific condition.

Proper exercising: It is important to keep your little one active through regular and controlled exercises in order to keep the joints mobile and the muscles working well. Your veterinarian will be able to provide specific guidance about these details.

Surgery: Surgery can be an option in some cases. However, invasive interventions can bring risks and complications, especially for senior and debilitated dogs. They also require a long and delicate recovery period, so your veterinarian will be to assess if this is an option for your little one’s case.

Pain medications: Arthritis is an extremely painful condition and normally requires the use of pain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), for instance. These medications should be only used if prescribed and monitored by your veterinarian since they can have drastic side effects in organs such as the liver and kidneys over time. They work by reducing the inflammation around the joints and relieving pain, and with the appropriate dose and regular checkups, many patients tend to respond well to the treatment. A therapy with injectable substances/nutraceuticals can also be recommended in some cases, even though the real benefits from this type of supplementation seem to vary from animal to animal.

Physical Rehabilitation: Many dogs with arthritis can also benefit from various therapies such as medical massage, physical therapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, and therapeutic laser. 

Natural Supplements: Supplements with known ingredients like Fish Oils and Curcumin can have great results in managing arthritis. We will discuss this in detail below.