Arthritis is the most common ailment that we see in older animals and as owners you are likely to come across it at some stage. The most common type of arthritis is known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease and occurs due to wear and tear on the joints.
The bone ends within a moveable joint are covered with a specific type of cartilage and a slippery membrane called the synovium. The joint contains an oily fluid and is enclosed in a capsule surrounded by ligaments. These structures allow smooth movement and to maintain this apparatus in working order the components need to able to repair themselves. Unfortunately, with age this repair process reduces and ligaments begin to stretch allowing the bones to rattle when they move creating inflammation and consequently new bone to be laid down in the wrong place creating pain. Bone is also reabsorbed from where it is needed and this process of remodelling is what is involved in arthritis causing pain and further damage to the joint.
X-ray of normal hips -nice ball and socket X-ray of arthritic hips- no socket and lots of extra bone
Some animals are very stoic especially cats and you may not notice obvious signs of pain such as moaning or limping, the signs may be subtle and include:
- Reluctance to exercise/jump up and muscle loss
- Stiffness especially after rest which often wears off with exercise
- General lethargy and sleeping a lot
- Hunched position
- Becoming more grumpy
- Licking affected joints
These symptoms are often worse when it is cold and damp.
Arthritic damage within a joint cannot be reversed but we can certainly slow the process down and control pain by various methods including diet, joint supplements, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, acupuncture and pain killers. It is important to keep our pets pain free so it is worth getting your pet checked by a vet as they may pick up areas of concern that you may not have thought were a problem.