Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints. A joint is a part of the animal’s body where two parts of the skeleton (bones) fit together. A joint’s function is to enable movement of the body parts.
There are different types of arthritis in pets: osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease), septic arthritis (caused by infection), and immune-mediated polyarthritis (when an animal’s immune system attack the joints in their body).
Osteoarthritis is commonly seen in older animals, but can also be seen in younger ones and can be caused by a joint injury. Septic (infectious) arthritis is caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.
Immune-mediated arthritis occurs when a pet’s antibodies (protective proteins produced by the immune system) attack connective tissue which can cause inflammation in the joint. Pets who are obese have a higher risk of arthritis and some have a genetic predisposition.
Arthritis is a disease that can affect any joint, causing pain and discomfort. Symptoms of arthritis begin mildly and worsen over time. Arthritis symptoms include lameness, swollen and painful joints, joint deformities, unusual posture when walking, trouble rising (getting up) when lying down, lethargy, irritability, etc. Disinterest in playing and walking can be another symptom of arthritis because the pain in your pet’s joints doesn’t allow them to move easily. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should take your pet to the veterinarian.
Diagnosis is based on history (when the first symptoms started, what symptoms are present), physical examination, blood and urine samples (to identify the inflammation), x-rays, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and analysis of the joint fluid.
Treatment depends on the type of arthritis and can include painkillers, steroids (to reduce swelling and pain), supplements like glucosamine (to help with the body’s production of joint lubricants and with shock absorption), and chondroitin sulphate (to help the body repair damaged cartilage tissue and reduce joint pain), and antibiotics (in septic arthritis). If trauma (injury) is the cause of arthritis, surgery may be necessary in some cases.
Apart from the medication that your veterinarian prescribed, you can also help by keeping your pet at their ideal weight. Slow exercise can keep arthritic joints remain active and healthy. Providing your pet a comfortable rest area in a dry, warm place is important for the recovery process. Cold damp conditions can make the symptoms of arthritis worse. Following this can help improve your pet’s life greatly. Take your pet to your veterinarian for regular check-ups to monitor their improvement and adjust the treatment as needed.