Osteoarthritis is probably the most common condition we see in clinic, especially at this time of the year. It’s often not the main reason we see the pet, but more of a ‘while we are here can we ask you about…?’ and it effects dogs and cats alike.
Classic signs that your pet may be suffering from arthritis is intermittent lameness, stiffness and joint pain; which is often more apparent after rest and in cold, damp weather. Osteoarthritis can affect younger dogs as a result of genetic disorders, just as much as ‘wear and tear’ does in older dogs.
The truth is osteoarthritis is a chronic, debilitating condition affecting a large percentage of our pet population, with one in five of our dogs and cats suffering from arthritis, often affecting one or more joints. It is thought that only 30% of dogs with osteoarthritis receive ongoing medical management and veterinary care, with 30% not receiving any treatment for the condition at all, and 40% who have an occasional limp or painful episode for which they seek one-off veterinary attention, but then have no ongoing care. The number of untreated cats is significantly higher.
Management and treatment of osteoarthritis is a complex and often difficult process. Whilst tablets are available to ease pain and help by slowing down the degenerative process, they are often resisted by owners due to fears about safety or high costs. However, studies have shown that in otherwise healthy dogs, only 0.05% had any ill effects from the medication. The same studies have also revealed that dogs on long term medication get far more benefit from the relief of pain and inflammation within the joint, than those on short courses.
As well as medication, vets will also advise on diet, lifestyle changes and complimentary therapies such as acupuncture and hydrotherapy to help alleviate pain and discomfort.
Human anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen are extremely dangerous to use with pets, causing kidney and liver failure. If you think your pet may be one of the 20% of the pet population with a problem, then I urge you to seek advice from your vet, not self-medicate.
As I am sure many reading this article are personally aware, arthritis is extremely painful, and our pets do not limp without a reason to do so, and usually that reason is pain. To focus on osteoarthritis as a condition in its own right, and help your pet to live comfortably with the condition, is our goal.
In January we are launching new osteoarthritis clinics, involving the nurses and vets within the practice to increase awareness and management of this condition. I’m hoping that the 70% of suffering dogs who currently cope silently can become a happier 100% with as much as possible being done to make our beloved pets as comfortable as we can, in their old or young age!
Sarah Probert, Bridgnorth Veterinary Centre