Osteoarthritis (OA) is primarily a slowly progressive disease characterized by the degeneration of the articular cartilage, increased bone growth in the affected area, joint swelling, and pain. Osteoarthritis affects the pet's joint as well as the surrounding bone. Arthritis is a defined as inflammatory changes in the joint. Approximately 20% of the dogs in the United States have OA, and a large amount of cats harbor the disease that goes unrecognized.
Signs that you may appreciate as a pet owner are:
- Getting up slow after rest
- Reluctant to lie down, or takes a long time to lie down
- Lagging behind on walks
- Reluctant to get or jump into the car
- Trouble with stairs
- Loss of muscle mass and tone (the leg looks smaller)
- Personality changes, tendency to be more aggressive due to pain
In addition to most of the above, our feline friends afflicted with OA may exhibit signs such as sleeping more, reluctance to jump on objects, and inappropriate urination or defecation, especially right next to the litter box. Stepping into the litter box can be painful, so cats will go to the box, refuse to step into it and urinate or defecate right next to it.
These are signs that you, as an astute owner, may appreciate. All pets with osteoarthritis may not show any clinical signs and or symptoms. Yearly or semi- annual exams helps us as practitioners to give your pet a through physical exam that includes the musculoskeletal system and manipulating the joints. We are able to pick up the more subtle changes, such as decrease range of motion of the joints, pain when the hips are extended, or even a very slight limp. Once OA has been diagnosed x-rays are recommended to appreciate the extent of the disease and to make sure there isn't anything causing the problem.
A treatment protocol will be implemented to provide a better quality of life for your pet. Pets that are overweight will be put on a weight reduction program. Nutracudicals, such as glucosamines and chondroitins, and omega 3 fatty acids are given on a daily basis. Polysulfated glycosaminglycan (Adequan) injection protocol and laser therapy all are part of our treatment for osteoarthritis. Adequan injections provide building blocks to help rebuild the cartilage, restore it to a normal healthy viscous state and also blocks parameters in the body that cause pain. Our therapy laser for pets also helps in decreasing inflammation at the joint site.
Exercise is also very important in treating OA, it helps keep the joints moving and lubricated, builds muscle mass and helps with weight loss. Allow your pet enough activity one day so they aren't painful or lame the next. Physical therapy and massage therapy are also offered at Lincolnway Animal Hospital to help improve the quality of life when your pet has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis.
Protocols and treatment plans are tailored to each individual pet and its needs. They are implemented with pets of all ages and utilized a great deal after any orthopedic surgery. Please call our hospital today for your pet's annual or semi-annual exam and inquire about treatment for osteoarthritis for your pet. (See our Osteoarthritis Score Card)
Dr. Duane A. Kimmey is Chief of Staff at Lincolnway Animal Hospital in Matteson, IL. His medical interests include surgery, especially orthopedics. Dr. Kimmey is also PennHIP certified.