A Winter’s Tail

As winter takes it’s grip, it is not uncommon to hear people complain about the cold weather causing a worsening of their arthritis symptoms. Although there is not a lot of scientific evidence to support the connection between wintry weather and joint pain, the changing season does tend to make us think more about this common and painful condition, both in ourselves and in our pets.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in dogs and cats, and is characterised by worsening inflammation in one or more joints, degeneration of cartilage and bone, and deterioration of the soft tissues surrounding the joints. The vast majority of dogs and cats that develop osteoarthritis do so as they grow older. Dogs and cats are naturally very active animals, and eventually an active lifestyle can take it’s toll on the joints, leading to osteoarthritis. Our pets don’t always let us know that they are suffering from arthritic pain in a way that is immediately obvious to us. The pain associated with arthritis in older animals is often just put down to ‘old age stiffness’, when in fact a reluctance to jump in and out of the car, or climb the stairs, or jump onto that favourite lap, is often an indicator of a degree of joint pain.

Overweight animals are at greater risk of developing osteoarthritis at an earlier age, since their joints are under greater stress on a daily basis.

Sadly, osteoarthritis becomes a fact of life for the vast majority of older animals, but what can we do to help delay the onset of symptoms, reduce the severity of symptoms and slow down the progression of the condition?:

– If you are worried that your pet may be showing symptoms of osteoarthritis or is at risk of developing osteoarthritis, get them checked out at the surgery, where your Vet can give them a thorough examination, assess their joints, and check for any underlying conditions which may be contributing to arthritis symptoms. You can chat to your Vet about treatment and preventive options that will be the most suitable for your pet.
– Overweight animals should be placed on a weight reduction diet to get their weight to a healthy, normal level. An exercise routine to help with weight loss is also important to maintain muscle and cartilage health, tailored to the individual animal.
– Anti-inflammatory medications form an important part of the treatment plan for most animals with osteoarthritis. They help control joint inflammation and therefore reduce pain. Your Vet will prescribe the most appropriate medication for your pet. It is important to remember NOT to give human drugs to animals at home, since in some cases these can be highly toxic.
– Disease-modifying injections may be recommended by your Vet to treat arthritis in your pet. These injections can be very effective and provide long-lasting relief of symptoms.
– Supplements can be fed to both cats and dogs which help maintain the health of joint tissues, and therefore the joints can function more effectively, and inflammation and pain are reduced. Glucosamine is commonly used as a supplement, often in combination with other supplements, and here at the surgery we have seen some amazing results in our patients that take glucosamine on a daily basis.
– Complementary therapies, including hydrotherapy, acupuncture and physiotherapy, play an increasingly important and effective role in the management of chronically painful conditions such as osteoarthritis. Often choosing any complementary therapy can depend on the willingness of the patient, but again this is something we use regularly at the surgery, with great success.

Prevention is always the better option, and so maintaining a healthy body condition for your pet and ensuring regular, controlled exercise, can go a long way towards preventing the development of osteoarthritis and it’s symptoms. If you have any questions about this very common condition, do contact us at the surgery, where our Vets and Nurses will be happy to advise you on the best course of action.’