Osteoarthritis in Pets : What You Need to Know
Osteoarthritis in Pets : What You Need to Know
“Osteoarthritis” refers to degenerative joint diseases. It refers to the degradation of structures in the joints (e.g. cartilage, bone). No exaggeration - osteoarthritis is super common in cats and dogs. In fact, based on overseas studies, osteoarthritis is reported in ~20% of dogs over 1 year of age, and ~80% of dogs over 8 years of age. As for cats, studies show that ~40% of all cats display clinical signs of osteoarthritis, and ~90% of cats over 12 years old display clinical signs. The prevalence in cats is probably higher, as cats are really good at hiding clinical signs.
Since osteoarthritis is so common in cats and dogs, it’s important to know as much as you can. This article talks about the risk factors of osteoarthritis in cats and dogs, signs of osteoarthritis, potential complications, and how paw-rents can manage osteoarthritis in cats and dogs.
*Risk Factors for osteoarthritis in cats and dogs
Overweight and obese animals are more prone to osteoarthritis. The extra weight places additional burden on the joints, accelerating degeneration in these joints.
As we age, our body goes through more wear and tear. Animals are no different - older animals are more likely to develop joint issues.
Some breeds are more likely to have genetic skeletal/joint issues (e.g. loose kneecaps, hip dysplasia). These animals are more likely to develop joint degeneration as they age. For instance, some toy breed dogs (e.g. toy poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, pomeranians) tend to have loose kneecaps. Some large breed dogs (e.g Golden Retrievers) are prone to hip dysplasia (a condition where the head of the thigh bone does not fit properly into the socket of the hip bone.
Signs of osteoarthritis in cats and dogs
Signs of osteoarthritis in cats and dogs include (but are not limited to):
-Limping/favouring one leg
-Slower pace when walking
-Struggling with stairs
-Struggling to get up
-Reluctance to participating in physical activities (e.g. walks, play)
-Aggression when a certain area is touched
-Change in overall behaviour (i.e more lethargic)
If you notice any of these clinical signs, please contact a veterinarian.
*What happens if osteoarthritis is left unmanaged?
To put it bluntly - If osteoarthritis is untreated, your dog will be in pain throughout their life. Even everyday activities such as getting up and walking for short distances will be greatly challenging. As these dogs are less agile, they’re more likely to injure themselves by falling down. Many of these dogs also become underweight and dehydrated, as they’re reluctant to walk to their food and water bowls. Imagine how you’d feel if you had to live your life like that!
Management of osteoarthritis
Do note that osteoarthritis cannot be reversed. It can only be managed, and the aim is to reduce the rate of progression of osteoarthritis,
Here are the hallmarks of management:
As mentioned before, extra weight will place more stress on the joints. Therefore, overweight and obese dogs will benefit from losing weight. However, be careful - it’s not good for weight to be lost too rapidly, as it can lead to loss of muscle mass. Weight loss in your pet has to be done in a controlled manner. Your vet will help you to devise a weight loss management plan.
There are two components to a weight loss management plan - diet and exercise. In many cases, vets will help to reduce your pet’s diet in a controlled manner and get you to cut down on your pet’s treats. However, they may also prescribe Hill's® Prescription Diet® j/d® Canine Joint Care.
Forms of exercise may include short walks, or even activities like hydrotherapy. Consult your vet about developing an exercise regimen for your dog.
Joint supplements are useful as they can help with cartilage repair and with reducing inflammation. Certain ingredients are very helpful. For instance, research shows that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce discomfort in joints.
My Animal Dispensary stocks SYNOQUIN ® Joint Supplement for cats, small dogs, medium dogs and large dogs. SYNOQUIN ® is rich in krill, which is a jam-packed source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Chondroitin and glucosamine are commonly-paired ingredients. Glucosamine is mildly anti-inflammatory, and it is also one of the building blocks of cartilage. Chondroitin helps to slow down cartilage destruction. Studies suggest that both ingredients are synergistic i.e. they enhance each other’s efficacy. The Natural Pet Ultimate Joint Care Liquid is rich in chondroitin and glucosamine, and is suitable for all breeds of cats and dogs. The Vetra Animal Health Tricosamine Joint Protein Supplement (Flavored) is another product that’s rich in chondroitin and glucosamine. For the Vetra range, there is a hypoallergenic version as all.
Hyaluronic acid is an important ingredient in joint supplements, as it helps to lubricate joints to help them glide smoothly.
In recent years, green-lipped mussels (GLM) have received a lot of attention as an ingredient. GLM contains omega-3 fatty acids and chondroitin sulfate. In addition, GLM contains other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. GLM-containing joint supplements include the Vetri-Science GLYCO-FLEX III for Dog 120 Tablets. There is also a chicken-flavoured version: Vetri-Science GLYCO-FLEX II (Chicken Flavour) for Dogs.
Your pet may be vegetarian, or have seafood allergies. Fear not! My Animal Dispensary also stocks Natural Pet Vegetarian 3 in 1 Joint Care Tablets. This supplement contains 100% non-shellfish, non-animal derived glucosamine.
Some (not all) pets may be suitable for surgery. In younger animals, surgery can reduce/correct genetic defects (e.g. loose kneecaps or hip dysplasia) that will predispose to joint issues in the long term. Some cases are also be suitable for surgery that slows the progression of osteoarthritis.
We hope that this article has given you more information about osteoarthritis in cats and dogs. Consult your vet if you need further advice.