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Cathcart & Winn

Canine Osteoarthritis

Diagnosis

If you have noticed any of the changes below in your dog, you should consult your vet.
• Reduction in mobility – difficulty in jumping up or down, limping or stiffness, difficulty in getting up, unusual movement when walking or running
• Reduction in activity – reluctance to go for walks or to play, lethargy
• Swollen joints
• Sleeping more, especially in one place
• Changes in grooming habits – excessive licking or chewing over the joints
• Personality changes (increased anxiety, depression, or aggression)
Your vet will examine your pet and may recommend radiographs to diagnose the specific joints affected with the disease and to see how severe the changes are.


Management

1. Weight loss – Being overweight dramatically increases the pain associated with an arthritic joint. It is therefore essential to tackle this from the outset. This will involve a weight reduction programme and should be discussed with your vet. We can then organise free weight clinics with the nurse to monitor progress.
2. Exercise - This can be difficult in a dog which has joint pain however exercise is important to maintain healthy cartilage. A carefully tailored exercise plan will be advised. Regular, gentle exercise is the key. Sporadic very energetic exercise such as chasing balls is not normally recommended. Hydrotherapy may be recommended as swimming builds muscle mass without impact on the joints – there are pools nearby who specialise in swimming dogs so we can refer you to these if appropriate.
3. Deep, soft bedding should be provided.
4. Joint health - Healthy joint cartilage is essential to maintain its function. In osteoarthritis cartilage damage can result in a series of more extensive changes within the joint and a cycle of degeneration can be set in motion. Supplements such as Flexadin, omega-3 fatty acids, green lipped muscle extract or a change of diet to Hills J/D will be discussed.
5. NSAIDS - This stands for Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs. These are used to reduce or eliminate the pain associated with OA. It is essential that they are used sensibly alongside the above. Monitoring of cases on NSAIDS is important as in a small number of cases side effects can develop especially after long term use. There are various different NSAIDS available and your vet will select the best one for your dog.
6. Alternative anti-inflammatories – such as PLT or prednisolone may be advised when other options are no longer effective
7. Surgery - In a small number of cases surgery may be advised. This may involve ligament replacement, cleaning out of the joint or in severe cases joint replacement or joint fusion.
8. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture can also be very useful in some cases.
Although arthritis is usually associated with pain and stiffness in the joints, it is often only after the pain has been relieved, and your dog has renewed mobility, that you may come to realise just how stiff he/she had become.

What is the long term outlook for a pet with osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis may progress very slowly (over several years) or very quickly (you might notice a major change in just a few weeks or months). It all depends on your pet's age, his or her activity level, the joints involved and the underlying cause. Some pets' pain and loss of mobility can be kept to a minimum for long periods of time with a simple regimen of weight control, moderate, regular exercise and the occasional use of anti-inflammatory drugs if flare-ups occur. For others, severe damage to the joints may occur rapidly and require long-term medication and other therapy. In either case, your veterinary surgeon can determine the best course of treatment for your pet's particular condition.

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