Saturday, 4 October 2014


We all know someone with arthritis, whether it’s a human friend or family member, or an animal companion. But if asked to describe what goes on inside an arthritic joint, many of us would be lost for words. We know it hurts, but we don’t really know why or how it happens.
Dogs and cats have an intricate skeletal system made of bones, muscles tendons and ligaments. The joints are the hinges that allow the skeleton to move and flex in amazing ways. They’re composed of cartilage over the bone ends and are stabilized by tendons and ligaments. The cartilage is a smooth but tough and protective coating for the bones underneath. It absorbs shock and reduces friction. The synovial tissue encloses the joint in a joint capsule and the synovial or joint fluid adds to the cushioning effects and provides lubrication for smooth joint action. When joints are damaged by disease or injury, inflammation results. Inflammation in the joints is known as arthritis. It may be either degenerative or inflammatory in nature. Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, is more common in dogs than inflammatory joint disease.
Causes of degenerative joint disease
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs and can be divided into primary or secondary arthritis.
Primary osteoarthritis is due to an inherited predisposition towards the problem. An example would be hip dysplasia in certain lines of German shepherd. These dogs are predisposed because their inherited anatomical conformation puts excessive stress on the hip joints.
Secondary osteoarthritis results from wear and tear on the joint. This can be abnormal stress on normal joints, or normal stress on abnormal joints. Vigorous exercise, excessive jumping, injuries, accidents or stretching and tearing ligaments can lead to arthritis due to abnormal stresses on previously normal joints. Large breed dogs are more susceptible to osteoarthritis due to increased weight and stress on the joints. Dogs who are overweight, senior, working or have medical conditions such as diabetes are also at an increased risk of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease is also seen in cats. In a recent study, it was found that 90% of cats over the age of 12 had radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease. Clinical signs of arthritis in cats can be a reluctance to use the litter box, poor grooming habits, decreased appetite, weight loss, depression, neurological signs and lameness. Many cases of arthritis are idiopathic in nature.
Treatment and prevention Treatments for arthritis are varied but focus on reducing pain and improving mobility.
• Pharmaceutical treatments can include steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, polyglycosaminoglycans (drugs that prevent cartilage breakdown) and painkillers.
• Surgical treatments may be necessary for some conditions.
• More natural treatments include glucosamine, Omega 3 fatty acids, dietary therapy, acupuncture, laser or magnetic therapy, herbal treatments, chiropractic, massage and physiotherapy including water therapy and energy healing therapy.
• Weight loss and exercise are extremely important for any arthritic animal.
A good healthy diet and proper exercise can help prevent arthritis or reduce its effects. Maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding obesity are critical. Omega 3 fatty acids can help prevent the inflammation seen with degenerative joint disease. Supplements like glucosamine can also help prevent arthritis.
A little education on your part can mean a long healthy and painfree life for your furry friend.

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