The condition commonly referred to as arthritis is more correctly known as Degenerative Joint Disease or DJD, for short. Most people think of arthritis as affecting older pets, but young animals can suffer from it too, as a result of ligament or bone trauma, or some hereditary diseases. Large or giant breed dogs are commonly afflicted very early in life.
All species of animals may be affected by arthritis, but it is the dog that shows the most obvious signs of the disease. Cats can be sneakier at hiding their signs of arthritis, but if you know what to look for you can pick up on some of the signs early.
What to look for?
- Not wanting to exercise or play.
- Difficulty getting up – especially after resting
- Difficulty jumping into the car, climbing stairs, etc
- Limping or short stepping gait when walking
- Change in character, behaviour or temperament, or sleeping more than usual
- Excessive licking of one particular body area
Cats will often be more subtle with their behaviour changes.
- They may use “stepping stones” to get to places, to get onto the bench, they will now jump onto a chair, then the bench.
- They may no longer groom themselves as well, as it hurts to bend around to clean.
- They may also become more reactive to pats, no longer enjoying being stroked along the spine, or over the hips.
If you are concerned that your pet may have arthritis, you will need to make an appointment with your Anexa Vet. Your Vet will perform a complete physical examination including assessing the mobility and discomfort in your pet’s joints. Sometimes, for accurate diagnosis of arthritis, an animal will require x-rays performed under general anesthesia, as certain other conditions may mimic the signs seen with arthritis.
Your pet may also need blood and urine testing as part of a complete clinical examination to determine if other underlying health issues will alter the treatment regime for the arthritis.
Once a diagnosis of DJD is made, your Vet may recommend a combination of pain relief/anti-inflammatory medications (there are a number of very effective options available); “joint-supplements”; and a weight-loss (where appropriate) and moderate exercise program.
Changes that you can make at home are:
- A raised soft bed, placed out of draughts
- Reducing the animals weight if it is overweight
- Keep the exercise level sensible. Arthritic joints need to be kept mobile but excessive hard exercise can inflame the situation (dogs).
As arthritis has such an impact on the quality of life for your pet, it is important that you have your pet checked out if you suspect a problem; animals can be very good at hiding pain. For further information or advice, please contact your local Anexa Vet, we’re here to help.