Is YOUR pet suffering from arthritis?

Google Maps location for Riverport Veterinary Hospital

Riverport Veterinary Hospital
1 Avoca Street
SA 5214

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08 8555 5690

Victor Central Veterinary Clinic
35 Crozier Road
Victor Harbor
SA 5211

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08 7522 4300

It’s that time of year again… as the weather starts to get colder we see more and more patients start to feel the effects of arthritis.  Thankfully there are plenty of things we can do to help dogs and cats as they develop sore joints.


getting a bit creaky...

                How do I know if my pet is developing arthritis?

Well, it’s not always as easy as you might suspect.  Often by the time we notice our pets are showing signs of arthritis, they are in significant pain.  Look for early signs of decreased mobility such as:

  • ·         “slowing down” in any way whatsoever…although there can be many reasons why our cats and dogs may slow down, arthritis and dental disease are the most common culprits
  • ·         “Stiffness” – even if you think this is only mild it is worth getting it checked out
  • ·         Reluctance to get in and out of the car, up and down stairs etc.
  • ·         “Missing” the litter tray – cats with sore legs find it hard to squat normally over their litter and will often leave us deposits just beside the tray as a result
  • ·         Showing less interest in chasing the ball, playing with the puppy
  • ·         Difficulty rising, lying down or resting more than normal.
  • ·         Difficulty walking, running or jumping, decreased appetite and changes in behaviour (these are more advanced signs that you want to avoid for your pet)

If your pet is doing any of these things, schedule a visit with your vet because the earlier we find the problem, the more we can help!

                What causes arthritis?

·         In dogs and cats the most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis.  This can develop for many reasons such as trauma, inflammation and genetics.  Osteoarthritis is a chronic, degenerative joint disease that affects the bone, cartilage and soft tissues of the joints.  It is a progressive disease, meaning that once the process starts we can do our best to control it and manage the pain but we can never completely cure it.

·         Some patients are far more likely than others to develop painful arthritis.  For example many large breed dogs suffer from Hip Dysplasia (which can range from mild to very severe) which can cause significant arthritis in their hip joints.  If your dog or cat has had an injury to one of his or her joints then arthritis is likely to develop.

Is my pet likely to develop arthritis?

·         Around 1 in 5 dogs over the age of 1 is affected by arthritis.  Over the age of 7 this number dramatically increases and is actually similar for dogs and cats.


Some breeds are more prone than others...

·         The most at-risk patients are the larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Labradors and Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes and Pointers.  However we see arthritis in many small breed dogs and a large proportion of cats.

OK so what can I do if I suspect my dog or cat is developing arthritis?

·         The first step is generally a visit to your vet for a full assessment.  If we start arthritis management when the symptoms are mild (or not present at all – proactive management is recommended in at risk breeds such as Labradors from the age of 7 but that would take another blog post to discuss properly), the success rate is MUCH higher. 

·         After an initial assessment we will tailor an arthritis management plan for your pet.

I’d like more specifics please

Well, each patient may require a different arthritis management program but we can discuss the general plan for most patients:

1/ Weight control and simple at-home comfort management – while we have some pretty cool, modern treatments for arthritis, something as simple a losing a few kilos can have just as much (if not more) effect on the outcome.  An extra 5kg weight means an extra 5kg that a painful joint has to carry……..

Providing warm, comfortable bedding can also make a big difference.

2/ Controlled exercise.  While every patient is different, as a general rule the most important factor with exercise is regularity.  This means that daily exercise, whether it is a 5 minute walk or a 2 hour run, is generally the best approach.  We often see problems in patients that do minimal exercise during the week while Mum and Dad are at work, then run on the beach on the weekend.  A lead walk of consistent duration each day is generally the best approach.

3/ Disease Modifiying OsteoArthritis Agents.  Long story short, this is a series of 4 injections at 1 week intervals that helps significantly with both long term and short term management and pain.  May of you will have heard of these cartrophen injections. (Our preferred product is actually a newer version called Zydax)  Most patients receive this course of injections annually and a booster at 6 months but as the disease progresses we will often do more regular injections.  This is ALWAYS our first line of treatment for arthritis as we believe it provides the best value for money and effectiveness of all the treatment available.

4/ Supplements at home.  Talk about a kettle of fish……..this is a huge market with a billion different opinions so I like to keep it simple:

  • ·         Glucosamine and Chondroitin definitely help so pick a product with at least those 2 components


  • ·         Pick a product that is easy to give to your pet (liver treats infused with the goodies are great!)


  • ·        Take your pick of the remaining available supplements….there are so many different opinions on whether you should use MSM, Green Lipped Mussel, fish oils etc but at this stage we have no great scientific evidence that one is better than the other.  They are all pretty safe and if you are not sure just give us a buzz.


5/ Pain relief.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDS) reduce pain as well as inflammation.  For this reason they help make your pet more comfortable as well as slow down the progression of the disease.  You need to talk to your vet about which NSAID is most appropriate for your pet and discuss the (relatively minimal) risk of side effects.   In the later stages of arthritis we will often use additional pain-killers.

6/ Surgery.  Some patients can benefit from surgery on an affected joint.  This may range from a knee reconstruction to a hip replacement and is obviously specific to an individual patient.

7/ Stem Cell Therapy.  This is something we have been doing for around 6 months now and are VERY happy with the results.  For more info on stem cells read our blog here.

                Too Much Information……


But we really are passionate about arthritis in your pets because it is so COMMON and so TREATABLE.

If you made it this far and think your pet needs an evaluation for arthritis give us a buzz and tee up a time to see one of our vets.  This is the ideal time of year to start a management program before it gets too much colder………………..


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