Beaver Lake Animal Hospital
PREVENTING DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE
AND MANAGING ARTHRITIS
Arthritis is inflammation of a joint. It can occur in any joint, including the spine and jaw. Signs of arthritis include painful or stiff joint movement, joint swelling and a grating sensation during joint movement. Arthritis can also cause fever and redness of the skin over the joint. Polyarthritis is inflammation of several joints at the same time. It is often associated with complex internal diseases. Causes of arthritis include degeneration from aging, inherited arthritis, infection, injury, blood diseases, allergic or immune-medicated disease and cancer. Chronic arthritis is detected radiographically as abnormal mineralization or bony development around the joint or even bridging the joint. Early arthritic changes which have not mineralized is detectable on standard radiographs. Once arthritis begins, it tends to be progressive, in some instances slowly, but in other relatively quickly. We have found most dogs over 6 years old and many cats over 10 years old have one or more arthritic joints.
Many clients come in reporting their dog is slower to get up, or is stiff after resting or sleeping. Although we may assume a pet's discomfort or slowing down is from arthritis, we cannot know for sure without diagnostic testing. Radiographs (x-rays) and laboratory tests are necessary to determine the type and extent of the arthritis. Follow-up examinations during treatment are necessary to evaluate the response to therapy. Arthritis is usually a controllable rather than a curable disease. Therapy is designed to minimize discomfort and delay or prevent progression of disease. We have the ability to improve the comfort of pets with arthritis.
Because hip dysplasia is so common and most dogs do not complain until in severe pain we recommend all dogs that are 50 # or more at 6 months of age have their hips radiographically evaluated when in for spay or neuter. If a spay or neuter is not planned, sedation and radiographs should be taken at 9 12 months of age. At 18 to 24 months of age we recommend this be performed, or repeated for any dog greater than 60 #. This will allow us to plan a strategy to keep dysplasic dogs as comfortable as possible. This also gives you the choice of preventive surgery if indicated. Due to the highly heritable nature of hip dysplasia all large or giant breed dog should have their hips radiographically evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals before being considered for breeding. Visit www.ofa.org.
Below is a compilation of information about managing a dog or cat with arthritis. This is a guide to answer some of your questions and help you help your pet feel as good as possible. Several of the products overlap in their benefits to the pet. A plan will be developed for your pet. This plan can be adjusted to you and your pet's needs.
Many of the joints that develop arthritis in the dog or cat are weight-bearing joints; these joints include hips, knees (stifles), ankles (hocks), elbows, wrists (carpi) and the spine. The greater the load they carry, the greater the forces on them. This leads to increased degenerative changes, and eventually increased pain. The earlier a dog is overweight particularly during growth the greater the chances of developing bone or joint problems.
Regular moderate exercise helps keep muscles toned and better able to accommodate an abnormal joint. Swimming is excellent. There is much less gravitational force on joints when in the water. This allows for a greater range of motion of each joint, and allows for greater use of muscle mass. This ultimately leads to greater muscle tone, and less pain for the dog. Swimming also is a great way to burn off calories. On land a dog can only cool itself through breathing, its nose and the pads of the feet. When a dog is wet, the heat developed during exercise can be released through the dog's skin. The dog's body is then better able to keep itself cool, thereby allowing for increased amount of exercise, than if dry. Swimming is a great exercise for any water-loving dog of any age. There is a local facility in Fall City called the Heavenly Spa and Holistic Healing Center that has special facilities for special needs dogs. Visit www.allpetsgotoheaven.com.
Do not take an immature dog on your daily run or jog. Although the heart and lungs can easily keep up with you, the developing skeleton and joints can be severely injured by repetitive pounding forces on a non-giving surface. The joints and developing cartilage can be bruised and damaged leading to developmental problems and arthritis. Please wait to run/jog with your dog until at least 16 months old. Most dogs that will weigh over 60 pounds should be 18-24 months old. In general, the larger the breed, the older the pup should be. A large breed dog has growing bones until almost 2 years old. Please ask about your individual pup. Walking is great for miles. Short (up to