One of the results of the aging process on the joints is arthritis.
Arthritis typically starts with some type of injury to the joint’s cartilage. It may result from trauma, genetic reasons or simply the “wear and tear” of old age. Once the degenerative process has begun, the natural lubrication doesn’t work as well, and enzymes start to “eat away” at the cartilage tissue. Over time, this can lead to pain and reduced mobility for your pet. Arthritis affects one in five dogs in the U.S.
Some of the signs you may see in an animal with arthritis is the favoring of a leg, difficulty sitting or standing, acting stiff after laying down, and hesitation to run, jump or climb stairs. You may also notice a decrease in normal activity and less interest in play as well as attitude or behavior changes.
Fortunately, there are many options now available to help your pet. One option is the use of NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to combat the pain and inflammation of arthritis. There are many drugs available and some pets that do not respond well to one drug may do tremendously well with another type. All drugs have side effects so it is very important to use these medications with the direct supervision of your veterinarian. NEVER use over-the-counter medications without consulting your veterinarian first, as some may be extremely toxic. A second option, which can be used with NSAID’s or sometimes just by themselves, is the administration of neutraceuticals such as glucosamine and PSGAG’S (polysulfated glycosaminoglycans). These products help control pain by breaking the cycle of joint degeneration while improving lubrication and production of new cartilage tissue. They are available in a chewable pill or by injection.
There are important things that pet owners can do at home for their pets that suffer from arthritis. It is VERY IMPORTANT to feed your animal a healthy diet and maintain its proper weight or to begin a weight reduction diet if necessary. Providing a comfortable place to sleep with padded bedding is very beneficial for larger dogs as is a ramp to assist access to vehicles and stairways in the home.
Aging is inevitable, but we can help our pets live longer, healthier, and better quality lives by paying attention to this sometimes subtle disease.