The A-F of Arthritis

Winter is truly on the way and often with the cold weather we notice our pets ‘stiffening up’ or ‘slowing down’. Older pets (and less commonly younger ones) can suffer with a degenerative condition called osteoarthritis that affects the bones and soft tissues of a joint. This causes pain and reduced mobility in the joint. Sometimes one specific joint can be affected or it can affect several joints in the body.

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Early symptoms in dogs can include slower walking, difficulty getting into or out of the car and seeming more ‘grumpy’! In cats the signs can be vaguer including sleeping more and not going to their usual hiding places. They may have difficulty using their litter trays and so may urinate/defaecate around the house.
There isn’t a cure for osteoarthritis (OA), but there are several ways of managing the disease to reduce pain and increase mobility thereby improving your pet’s quality of life
Here at the Oak we like to use the A-F guide for osteoarthritis!! So here goes......
A is for Analgesia or pain relief as it’s more commonly known. Treating the pain and inflammation associated with OA is the most effective treatment as it improves your pet’s quality of life. The most commonly used are non- steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). We also offer acupuncture here through our vet Caroline Gardner and find it an extremely rewarding form of pain relief in pets with arthritis. Two of our nurses Becky and Lou are physiotherapy trained and this can help relieve the pain and muscle spasm associated with OA.

B is for Bodyweight specifically LOSING body weight! Weight loss has been proven to significantly reduce the pain associated with arthritis. Research suggests that losing 6-9% bodyweight would lead to an improvement in your pet’s OA symptoms.

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C is for Care Tender Loving Care to be exact! We know you all love your pets dearly and making a few alterations to their everyday care routine can have a big impact on their welfare. Think warm soft bedding to help support joints, ramps to help in and out of cars, rugs and mats on slippery floors, raising food bowls off the ground, using harnesses to help stop unnecessary strain, hot and cold therapy over joints
There are also some specific considerations for cats as they may not be able to sit up on the windowsill they used to jump onto – provide step systems so they can reach their hiding areas, horizontal scratch posts and low sided litter trays.

D is for Disease Modification and the use of nutraceuticals. In a normal joint, healthy cartilage helps to cushion the joint by acting as a ‘shock absorber’ and providing a friction free surface for movement. In an arthritic joint the cartilage is abnormal and so unable to carry out these vital functions. There is gradual ongoing loss and damage of cartilage resulting in the lameness and pain we see. Nutraceuticals are non-drug substances such as glucosamine, green lipped mussel extract, omega 3 fatty acids and chondroitin. These can be found in supplement form or within special diets such as Hills J/D. There are also injectable disease modifying drugs and recent research has increased the use of serum or platelet injections.

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E is for Exercise. Regular controlled exercise is really important for maintaining your pet’s health. Although you might need to shorten your arthritic pet’s walks they still need to be regular and consistent. We always advise owners to avoid the ‘weekend warrior’ syndrome! This is when during the busy working week our dogs tend to have shorter walks and then when we have time at the weekend we take them for a 2-3 hour walk. This can be too much and cause stiffness and pain. Think ‘little and often’! Consistency is the key.

F is for Follow Ups. As discussed arthritis is an ongoing degenerative disease so it is important to have regular checks with your vet. At check ups we can talk to you about any problems you may be having managing your pet or with any medications. We will do a general health check and make sure your pets management plan is ideally tailored to their specific needs. Sometimes we may need to do blood tests to make sure your pet can continue on their current medication.

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If you are struggling to keep your pet’s weight down our nurses run FREE weight clinics which can prove a great help. We are always on hand to help put the ‘spring’ back in your pet’s ‘step’, so if you have any questions, concerns or would like to make an appointment , just call us on 01437 760111!

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