Osteoarthritis in Companion Animals

posted: by: Dr. Meagan Sims Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Osteoarthritis in Companion Animals

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common malady that befalls many elderly dogs and cats. It can cause our older pets to “slow down” as they age and is often painful for our pets. Luckily, there are many ways to address and manage osteoarthritis in our companion animals.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is inflammation associated with chronic usage and degeneration of skeletal joints. It is common referred to “wear and tear” on the joints over a lifetime of use.

What are signs of osteoarthritis?

Arthritis can often be subtle in early stages of disease. Most common clinical signs in dogs include difficulty moving (especially getting up after long periods of rest), limping, decreased interest in activities, and sometimes sudden onset of aggression.

In cats, the signs are not as noticeable. Be on the lookout for decreased play or unwillingness to jump on cat towers or countertops. Cats are very good at hiding pain, but new research shows that cats often suffer from OA that goes unrecognized and thus untreated.


How do we prevent/limit osteoarthritis?

Some component of the potential to develop OA is based on genetic predisposition and conformation (think of German Shepherds and their increased risk of hip dysplasia). Essentially, we can support joints to maintain healthy, happy dogs/cats for a long period of time using a few basic principles:

1.      Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Excess weight has been proven to increase the stress placed on joints, even during normal, every day movement.

2.      Encourage daily low impact activity. Activity and moving joints through a normal range of motion helps joint fluid (the lubricant of the joint) to circulate to nourish the entire joint surface. Additionally, movement also helps stimulate blood flow to the body-bringing fresh components for new joint fluid to be made. Simple activities such as leashed walks or play with toys are a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your pet as well as keeping them active.

3.      In breeds that are predisposed to developing osteoarthritis (most commonly large breed dogs or very active pets), it is beneficial to start these animals on a joint supplement product. Most commonly available products include the ingredients Glucosamine and Chondroitin. These molecules are found in normal, healthy joints in dogs, cats, and humans. Additionally, recent research has proposed that adding in essential fatty acids (EFAs) like those found in fish oil and its derivatives can help limit inflammation and protect joint health.  

My pet has just been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, what can we do?

Osteoarthritis is most commonly diagnosed via orthopedic examination performed by your veterinarian and confirmed with x rays of the affected joint(s). Unfortunately, there is nothing that we can do to reverse damage to the joint that has already been sustained. However, our goal is to preserve as much normal joint health and function as we can while providing pain control. There are many pharmacological, homeopathic, and alternative methods to controlling OA.

1.      Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories: Much like people can take ibuprofen or aspirin for pain, we have animal specific NSAIDs available for patients suffering from OA. (NOTE: DO NOT GIVE ANY HUMAN MEDICINE TO YOUR PET UNLESS INSTRUCTED BY A VETERINARIAN).

2.      Other medications: Sometimes, animals need pain control from several different classes of medications. These can include medications such as Tramadol, Gabapentin, etc.

3.      Injectible Adequan: Adequan was first developed for high performance horses. It is an injectible medication that is formulated to replenish joint fluid to a more normal composition. It is an ideal solution for pets that cannot be medicated orally.

4.      Physical therapy: There are several physical rehabilitation centers for pets in Texas. Underwater treadmills, acupuncture, massage, balancing and muscle building exercises are often used to help improve the mobility of patients.

5.      Laser therapy: We offer cold laser therapy at Belton Small Animal Clinic to help our patients with osteoarthritis. It limits inflammation/pain while stimulating circulation to the affected areas. Treatment packages are available.


Please call (254)939-5823 or come visit us at Belton Small Animal Clinic if you have any questions or want more information!