Arthritis and Pets - Michigan Humane Society

Arthritis and Pets

Osteoarthritis is estimated to be found in 20% of the adult dog population

Osteoarthritis is estimated to be found in 20% of the adult dog population. It is usually secondary to a cause that compromises the normal function of any joint(s). Abnormal development in large breed dogs, conformation abnormalities and genetic predispositions (hip dysplasia) are just a few causes of arthritis. Trauma, such as a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, can also cause arthritic changes to occur.

Below are examples of treatments that may help your pet better cope with arthritis. Never treat your pet without first having him seen by a veterinarian.

PROPER NUTRITION
There are now diets available with lowered calcium levels which have proven beneficial for large breed dogs. An important component of proper nutrition is to maintain your pet at a reasonable weight. Any extra weight compromises the health of his joints. If your pet is overweight, your veterinarian can help you develop a target weight for him and an appropriate dietary plan.

EXERCISE
Your pet won't make the connection between certain activities and the discomfort that will follow either immediately afterwards or the next day. It's up to you to discourage those activities. However, allowing your animal to remain inactive can also lead to problems. Inactivity causes the muscles to shrink, reduces joint mobility and can lead to obesity. Regular walking and swimming are excellent exercises that won't cause undue stress on the joints. Jumping and activities with sudden movements (stopping, turning, etc.) should be avoided.

PHYSICAL THERAPY
Before starting any type of physical therapy program with your pet, he should be examined by a veterinarian to determine if there are any underlying injuries that could be further damaged by the therapy. Passive range-of-motion exercises can be performed on most pets quite easily. The movements should be slow and the pet relaxed. Warm compresses, using moistened towels or water bottles at temperatures from 104 F to 113 F (do not use heating pads), or local massage, may also be helpful in easing your pet's discomfort.

MEDICATIONS
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used in dogs to reduce joint pain. These products should be used with caution and only in cooperation with your veterinarian. Keep in mind that when taking these drugs, your pet will feel better temporarily and, if you don't restrict activity, could further exacerbate the condition. Rimadyl™, Etogesic™ and aspirin are examples of NSAIDs. Do not use NASIDs in cats unless prescribed by a veterinarian.

SUPPLEMENTS
Humans have been using over-the-counter joint protection products for many years. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are the two main ingredients in the majority of them. Used daily for the life of your pet, these supplements can actually help cartilage stay healthy, and tend to have few side effects. They won't necessarily reverse arthritis, but may slow its progression. Omega-3 (N-3) fatty acids may be beneficial at reducing arthritic inflammation. Fish oil capsules, Derm- Caps™, and 3-v caps are just a few sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

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