What is arthritis?
Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint, which can cause pain and or swelling. Several types exist, including rheumatoid, degenerative, and infectious arthritis, each of which has a different cause. There are two forms of arthritis that may effect dogs - osteoarthritis and traumatic arthritis. An arthritic joint can cause immense pain, especially in the morning and in cold weather.
Osteoarthritis may be a condition in itself, or a result of other conditions such as hip dysplasia. It is a progressive and painful disease that will seriously affect the quality of life of the affected dog. It may affect one of more joints, and the seriousness of the condition will depend on which joints are affected, and general health of the dog. Obese dogs are more prone to osteoarthritis.
Traumatic arthritis is caused as a direct result of an injury to the joint, for example the result of a road traffic accident or a sprain while exercising. Poor nutrition, especially in the early months of of your dog's life, is another cause of the condition. It may also occur as a result of poor husbandry or old age, or be hereditary.
Swollen joints, difficult in walking, and lameness. As your pets friend and owner it is important to watch for trouble. These are signs of arthritis:
Becomes less active
Gets up Slowly
Walks stiffly or limps
Has swollen joints
Yelps, especially during exercise
Hesitates or refuses to climb stairs
Has a fever
Comprehensive examinations help your veterinarian detect and treat arthritis before it becomes too painfully. If your pet doesn't receive regular exams, the arthritis may already be advanced when you notice it. If you do notice signs or arthritis, see a veterinarian immediately. Your doctor will perform a complete physical examination and may use blood tests, X-rays, and joint fluid analysis to help determine the cause and severity of the arthritis.
Your vet will advise you as to what action you should take, as this will depend on the underlying cause and treatment being given. Careful exercise routines detailed by the vet will prove beneficial in many cases. Swimming is good, as it exercises the dog's muscles without putting pressure on affected joints.
Some of the tools your veterinarian may use to treat your pet:
Antibiotics help treat infectious causes of arthritis. Immunosuppressive drugs are effective against autoimmune disorders.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs help control the debilitating effects of degenerative arthritis. These medications can effectively control pain and inflammation in dogs. In fact, your older dog may act like a puppy again!
Chondroprotective agents, including glucosamine and chodroitin, are natural compounds that the body uses to replenish joint materials.
MSM; natural dietary sulfur, antioxidant vitamins, and fatty acid supplements may decrease the inflammatory effects of arthritis.
- Cortisone can be effective in the treatment of arthritis but can have side effects with prolonged use at high dosages.
Veterinary care can help reduce inflammation and ease the pain of arthritis. The treatment for arthritis may include anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers, and in some cases surgery may be needed. All cases of osteoarthritis should should be treated seriously. Don't wait until your dog can walk before consulting the vet.