Thursday 21 May 2015

Arthritis in your animals

At Bendigo Animal Hospital we often have people tell us that their animal is “a bit stiff”, “slowing down a little” or “spending more time sleeping these days”. Often people think that these signs are simply just a part of getting older, but did you know that they are common symptoms of one of the most prevalent diseases in older cats and dogs…arthritis! Osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease) is the progressive and permanent deterioration of the cartilage in joints.  While we generally think of arthritis as a disease of older animals it can also affect young animals.


Arthritis is insidious in its nature and can creep up without making itself overly apparent. Our pets are often stoic and uncomplaining, making it all too easy for us to attribute changes in their behaviour to getting old when in fact they are actually suffering from a very painful, but also treatable disease. When we start animals on arthritis treatments, people are often surprised at how big a difference it makes to the animal’s quality of life.


Signs of arthritis can be subtle or overt, but common signs to look for include:

ð       Difficulty rising

ð       Stiff gait

ð       Getting up later

ð       Unwilling or hesitant to jump

ð       No longer jumping up on furniture or difficulty jumping

ð       Decreased grooming (in cats)

ð       Muscle wastage

ð       Less interest in play

ð       Limping

ð       Reluctance to move


The team at Bendigo Animal Hospital are here to help! We don’t think that your much loved fur child should suffer from arthritic pain when there are things that we can do to help alleviate their discomfort. The approach to arthritic management varies from case to case, but can include some or all of the following:


1.      Maintain a lean body condition
Maintaining a lean body weight is the single most effective treatment and is also the least expensive one and has no negative side-effects, but many positive one! Overweight and obese animals are more likely to suffer from more severe cases of arthritis compared to animals that are of a healthy weight.


2.      Protect from cold
Protecting your animal from the cold (particularly where they sleep) greatly reduces the signs of arthritis.


3.      Provide a soft place to sleep
Ensure that your animal has a soft, warm place to sleep. This will reduce the pressure on their aching joints and help to reduce the commonly seen “stiff joints in the morning”.


4.      Gentle exercise
It is also beneficial for arthritic pets to maintain a gentle routine exercise regime.


5.      Nutritional management
Prescription diets such as Hills j/d and Royal Canin Mobility are designed to help slow the progression and alleviate the signs of arthritis. Some of the added benefits of these diets included omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), glucosamine, chondrontin and anti-oxidants, which are included to help reduce inflammation, repair damaged cartilage and slow down the progression of cartilage degeneration.


6.      Arthritis supplements
At BAH we recommend 4cyte as the leading joint supplement. This product promotes cartilage health as well as having a potent anti-inflammatory effect in the joint.


7.      Arthritis injections (Synovan)
Your veterinarian may also suggest a course of injections for arthritis treatment.  We use a product called Synovan. Synovan is very safe in our older pets and works by promoting blood flow to the joints, improving the quality of the joint fluid and by providing nutrients necessary for cartilage health.  The initial course is comprised of four injections given weekly.  After this a single booster injection is given as needed depending on the individual pet, but must be no greater than six months from the previous injection.


8.      Medical pain management
If necessary, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) may be prescribed.  NSAIDs are the most effective products at reducing joint inflammation and the progressive joint changes that occur with arthritis. Your vet may recommend intermittent or daily use depending on your pet’s condition.  These medications are generally very safe but can have serious side effects if their use is not appropriately monitored.  Ideally pets receiving regular NSAIDs should have a blood test every six months.  If your pet is on anti-inflammatories and develops vomiting, diarrhoea, dark or black faeces you should stop giving the medication and contact your veterinarian.
In more advanced cases of arthritis your veterinarian may add in a range of further pain management drugs such as tramadol and gabapentin which would be tailored to the individual pet's condition.


As with many illnesses, the key to successful management is early detection and intervention. Very advanced cases of arthritis can be difficult to management, so we recommend that you initiate treatment early on in the disease course.

If your pet is showing signs of arthritis this reflects painful inflammatory change in the joint. Treating arthritis will improve your pet’s quality of life and slow the progression of the disease. To discuss any concerns, please make an appointment with one of the BAH veterinarians. We are currently offering in-clinic discounts on a number of arthritis treatments and a discount of 20% on arthritis consults upon presentation of our arthritis coupon which is available in the Bendigo Weekly.


We would love to help you keep your fur family happy & healthy for years to come.


Dr Jess


  1. Although I do not have pets. But I love pets. And reading about them is one of my hobbies. I had a friend who's pet was really stiff, I wondered why. I got my answer. Thank you for sharing.

  2. On the off chance that you...a friend...or a relative has arthritis, it's critical to realize that early treatment can enable sufferers to proceed with their ordinary day by day lives and stay beneficial individuals from the network. Arthritis

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