We operate a 24 hour emergency service
Woodbridge: 01394 380083 Felixstowe: 01394 284554 Rendlesham: 01394 420964 Ipswich: 01473 274040
We operate a 24 hour emergency service
Woodbridge: 01394 380083
Felixstowe: 01394 284554
Rendlesham: 01394 420964
Ipswich: 01473 274040

Arthritis Explained

Arthritis, (inflammation of a joint or joints) can affect any moving joint in the body and the effects on the patient depend on site and severity.

Most arthritis in pets is the result of the wear and tear of age. It is more likely in animals with inherited issues such as hip dysplasia or in breeds that are an unusual shape, such as bulldogs or pugs with bandy legs (as if they didn’t have enough problems!).

Inside a joint the bone surfaces are coated in smooth shiny cartilage. The surfaces are separated by an efficient lubricating fluid – the joint fluid – and the whole joint is enclosed in a fibrous capsule. Arthritis results in the wearing out of cartilage, deterioration of quality and quantity of the fluid and thickening and distortion of the fibrous capsule.

Due to reduced activity in an animal with arthritis there are other long-term effects including muscle loss and the weakening of muscle tendons and supporting joint ligaments.

Is your dog or cat suffering from arthritic pain? This is what to look for.

  1. Limping: Some clients have said to me “Oh he limps a bit at the end of his walk but he is not in pain.” Well, he is in pain! We limp because one of our legs is painful and the same applies to animals.
  2. Change in behaviour: The dog or cat becomes grumpy, less willing to move and often become wary of being approached or handled, even by someone they know well. Dogs are less willing to go for walks or climb stairs. A classic sign of hip arthritis in dogs is a sudden reluctance to jump into the car. On walks they tend to slow down, sometimes even stopping completely. No fun carrying a 40Kg golden retriever over the last quarter mile! Cats no longer shin over the wall or climb a favourite tree. Play becomes a thing of the past.
  3. Stiffness: Especially noticeable when a dog or cat first gets up from having been asleep. The stiffness may wear off but as disease progresses the patient takes longer and longer to get into full mobility. Lying down or standing up may be accompanied by a groan or grunt.
  4. Licking a painful joint: A cat or dog will often spend ages licking at a sore joint to the point of causing hair loss or even an open wound (lick granuloma).

Arthritis is a progressive disease – we cannot cure it – we can only manage it by trying to slow it down and ease the accompanying pain. It marches on; and sooner or later gets so bad that either the affected joints become completely useless and/or the pain can no longer be controlled.

Osteoarthritis is where extra bits of bone appear around the joint (as seen on X-ray). Basically, the body is saying, “Cor, this joint hurts when I move it, so, I’ll bone it up and try to stop it moving”. But all that happens in effect is that tiny bits of extra bone are formed around the joint that further irritate and reduce movement. Occasionally, such as in the lower spine, the joint does completely fuse giving the animal a stiff back.

What can be done?

Firstly, keep an eye out for the signs above and take action quickly.

Secondly – ask yourself, “Is my pet overweight?” Our nurses can help you with that one! Just as in people – carrying too much weight puts extra load on joints that are becoming less capable of supporting it and on weakened muscles and ligaments.

Weight control is the single most important action you can take to slow down the march and pain of arthritis and it costs nothing. In fact, it saves money, doesn’t it?

Thirdly, supplements such as Glucosamine Hydrochloride and Chondroitin, Omega fats and some other nutraceutical substances can slow down cartilage and joint fluid deterioration and possibly support a degree of repair. Ask us about these supplements. Not everything that Dr Google offers has any value.

Fourthly, Pain Relief. That is our job. We usually begin with a non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drug, but these don’t suit every animal so we will decide the best approach. In older animals a blood test is sensible to guard against unwanted side effects.

In long standing cases of arthritis, the patient’s brain can become over sensitive to the pain and we can add in different drugs to alleviate this effect that is often called “wind-up”. Other treatments such as acupuncture, electroacupuncture and hydrotherapy are available and a combination of several approaches can be individually tailored to suit your own pet. At home, see if you can cover slippery floors, improve the support your pet’s bed offers and avoid unnecessary steps or stair climbing. Change exercise to “little and often” rather than irregular long hikes.

Between us we can devise a programme to significantly slow down the advance of your pet’s arthritis, restore some mobility and improve their comfort in the majority of cases.