Pet Tips

Arthritis in Dogs – Pet tip 96

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint(s) causing discomfort due to pain and stiffness of the joint that can be debilitating. The occurrence of arthritis could be due to genetics, environmental factors, or a combination of both. Arthritis can be caused by one or a combination of, the following: infection of the joint (septic arthritis), trauma, auto-immune disease (rheumatoid arthritis), the separation of a piece of cartilage in the joint (osteochondritis), or degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis). Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Diagnosis of the primary cause of arthritis is important to provide the patient with the appropriate treatment. Needless to say, early diagnosis of all forms of arthritis greatly improves the prognostic outcome of therapy.

Degenerative joint disease (DJD), also known as osteoarthritis, can occur because of aging where wear and tear of the joint cartilage exceeds the rate of its repair. In addition, it could also be due to trauma with a subsequent infection of the joint. There are many ways to manage DJD and slow the progression of the disease, but depending on the stage of disease progression, one may not expect a complete recovery to previous form.

Of foremost importance to DJD patients is to undergo a regimen of weight loss and adequate rest of the affected joint. Although weight loss is difficult to accomplish with the inability of your pet to exercise with ease, the use of weight loss formulas or food portion control is an appropriate approach. Weight loss and immobilizing the joint temporarily can help reduce stress and inflammation on the joint.

Upon receiving appropriate pain management, mild exercise may be incorporated into the regimen to improve blood circulation to the joint. Depending on your veterinarian’s recommendations, pain medications may be delivered in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which offer desirable anti-fever, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects by reducing fever, inflammation, and pain, respectively. Examples for NSAIDS are Rimadyl, Phenylbutazone, Indomethacin, Ibuprofen, and Aspirin.

Omega-3-fatty acids are also a popular choice to manage DJD, because of its anti-inflammatory effects. Corticosteroids, such as prednisolone may also be a good anti-inflammatory agent, although it should only be administered for a short period of time due to its immunosuppressive properties.

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, the building blocks of cartilage, are widely used as a dietary supplement to treat DJD. However, it may be several weeks before the effect of the treatment, if any, can be appreciated. A better method of encouraging the repair and growth of cartilage may be to supplement with growth factors that are essential to direct the use of such building blocks. Much research has been put into the use of elk or deer antler velvet, which is obtained humanely, and when the antlers are at the peak of growth. By using the whole structure of a growing antler, it is possible to obtain all necessary growth factors and cartilage building blocks, which makes antler velvet a good candidate for the treatment of DJD.

Acupuncture may also be prescribed for the alleviation of pain and to improve the blood circulation to the offending joint. However, there are conflicting clinical results to acupuncture treatment. Research has indicated that acupuncture may not be beneficial for knee-joint therapy.

For rheumatoid arthritis, the use of gold salts as a treatment may be possible. Gold salts may be delivered intramuscularly or orally, although the former is much more effective. The gold compounds are able to reduce inflammation although there is a risk of gold toxicity. Previous research indicated that delivering gold beads to dogs with hip-joint arthritis directly into the joint resulted in improved joint function.

Finally, surgery may be offered as an option for osteochondritis (OCD) where the offending cartilage can be removed or in cases where there is no improvement from physical therapy or medications. Because surgery may or may not alleviate pain or increase functionality of the joint, it is usually used as a last measure.

By Serene Lai – writer

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