When it comes to your companion dog or cat, information about the causes, prevention and treatment of arthritis is vital. Arthritis is a common degenerative joint problem, and joint stiffness will affect many of our dogs and cats as they enter their senior years. There are no miracle cures, but much can be done to prevent and avoid damaging effects.
25-30% of our canine and feline family members will show the effects of osteoarthritis.
You may first notice the appearance of stiffness when your dog or cat rises from a sitting or lying position, or from squatting to eliminate. They may hesitate to get up onto a favorite chair, or exhibit slowness in climbing stairs. Whimpering, growling or snapping when touched, loss of appetite, lagging behind or tiring easily during walks, limping after strenuous exercise – all are signs of discomfort or painful joints.
The positive news is there are steps that can be taken to help avoid and successfully treat cartilage and joint disorders.
Osteoarthritis in dogs and cats is caused by the deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joint and progresses slowly over a long period of time. Eventually, the deterioration leads to a condition where the bones that connect for joint movement begin to rub against each other, causing pain and discomfort. These conditions can be brought on by an earlier injury or genetic disease such as hip dysphasia, more common in the large dog breeds. There are various ways to treat arthritic and stiff joint conditions, and the associated soreness, in our dogs and cats.
NSAIDs provide pain relief but do not help repair damaged tissue or prevent further deterioration.
One solution is NSAIDs, which stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Rimadyl (active ingredient carprofen), Deramaxx (active ingredient deracoxib), and EctoGesic (active ingredient etodolac). Feldene (active ingredient piroxicam) is also prescribed to control pain for dogs with cancer. Currently there are no approved NSAIDs for cats in the United States and any NSAID use for cats must be carefully done under a veterinarian’s supervision. In 1998, Rimadyl headed the list of drugs reported to cause adverse reaction in dogs — 43.4% of all adverse drug reactions were due to Rimadyl. The most common adverse effects are stomach ulcers, and kidney, liver, and blood disorders. While NSAIDs can be safely used for short-term pain relief in most pets, their use should be reserved until all other preferred natural and safer options for long-term relief have been exhausted and the pet is showing signs of suffering.
A high quality glucosamine/chrondroitin sulfate supplement is a good defense and treatment for arthritis in dogs and cats.
Glucosamine/chrondroitin sulfate stimulates the production of important proteins found in cartilage and proteoglycans, which are the water-holding molecules that cartilage is comprised of; helps reduce pain; and, over time, rehabilitates damaged cartilage. A typical daily dose would be at least 1000 mg per 50 pounds of body weight. Preventing joint deterioration is a preferable course of action to take to ease the effect of aging, so start your pet on glucosamine before 8 years for larger breeds and before 10 for smaller breeds, before symptoms are present. You will possibly avoid a great deal of discomfort before it begins.
MSM (methysulfonylmethane): Another supplement to maintain healthy connective tissue that is a naturally occurring sulfur compound found in the cells of the body. It helps prevent arthritis in dogs and cats and can assist in reducing inflammation and swelling that accompany arthritis, disease and injuries.
Diet is a very important factor: A high quality diet is the foundation for good health and avoiding many diseases, including arthritis, for your dog or cat. (Please see — What’s Really In Dog Food — Raw Dog Food — Raw Pet Food.) If you are uncomfortable with a raw food diet, consider a combination of home-prepared cooked food, very high quality canned or dehydrated food, and very high quality kibble. If your pet has any environmental or food allergies, these must be addressed since they contribute to the degenerative conditions you are trying to prevent.
Weight control: An overweight dog or cat will accelerate the arthritic disease process and symptoms. Gentle exercise is helpful for any pet; swimming, if possible, is ideal.
Digestive enzymes & probiotics: Essential in aiding digestion and nutrient assimilation. They help avoid inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, allergies and degenerative conditions by maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal system in our dogs and cats. Digestive enzymes and probiotics are beneficial for all pets.
Essential fatty acid supplements: Preferably with fish oil will help reduce inflammation, and aid in the treatment of joint problems and allergies.
High potency antioxidants: Inflammation of arthritic joints contributes to the oxidation activity of free radicals that are damaging to the cells of the body and can increase the risk of cancer. Please see our page on antioxidants.
Acupuncture: Dramatic improvement is possible for arthritic dogs and cats with regular treatments.