Arthritis is a common and debilitating disease in pets as well as in people. The name comes from the Greek word for joint – arthro and the word for inflammation – itis and so Arthritis is “inflammation of the joint”.
In the pets we see, there are 3 main types of Arthritis: Rheumatoid Arthritis is caused when the immune system attacks a joint. Septic Arthritis is caused by an infection within a joint. Osteoarthritis is a wear-and-tear condition and is by far the most common form of Arthritis we see in our patients.
As an animal ages, the quality of the cartilage within the joint can deteriorate. As pets’ life expectancy continues to increase and animals live deeper and deeper into old age, more of those elderly animals suffer from Osteoarthritis. Overweight animals, or animals who subject their joints to excessive wear during exercise can also be prone to Arthritis. We also see Arthritis as a result of an injury to a joint such as a fracture or a ligament strain or rupture. Finally, we also see arthritis in certain breeds associated with growth and developmental problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia.
The most obvious signs of Osteoarthritis include lameness, stiffness, painful and swollen joints. Sometimes the signs can be more subtle with a pet just slowing down a little or struggling to jump into the back of the car.
A recent study suggested that over 90% of cats over the age of 12 suffered from Osteoarthritis but, as prey animals, cats are masters of hiding pain and discomfort so most cat owners don’t even notice that anything is amiss. Cats can sometimes become short-tempered when they are in pain. Another classic sign in cats is a matted and scruffy coat as stiff cats struggle to turn to groom themselves, and activity is reduced.
If suspected, your Vet may advise X rays to confirm the diagnosis.
Sadly, once the osteoarthritic cascade starts, there is no way to get rid of the arthritis however the good news is that there are a whole range of treatment options to reduce pain, improve mobility, slow the progression of the disease and restore your pet’s quality of life. Your vet will be able to advise on the best course of action for you and your pet.