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If your dog doesn’t jump to greet you on your return home each evening there may be a good reason – osteoarthritis. A chronic, degenerative joint disease that makes movement difficult and painful, osteoarthritis mainly strikes pets in their middle and senior years. However, younger animals can also be affected. In fact, studies show that approximately 20% of dogs have the condition in some form and, even though they are less prone, cats can also suffer from it.
It can be heartbreaking to see your once lively, always active best friend begin to limp, or notice his or her obvious pain when moving around. There is no cure for osteoarthritis. However, if it is treated promptly, there is a great deal that you and your veterinarian can do to decrease your pet’s discomfort and increase his or her mobility.
Early warning signs of osteoarthritis:
There are many causes, but practically all can be grouped into two main categories:
1. Abnormal stress on normal joints
2. Normal stress on abnormal joints
Whatever the specific cause, stress on a joint can begin a destructive cycle of inflammation of the joint area and damage to the cartilage that leads to pain for your pet.
Treatment includes three main components, each equally important.
In addition to the above, your veterinarian may also suggest physical therapy, cold or hot packs and baths, massage or acupuncture as well as glucosamine and chondroitin to help control pain. In extreme cases surgery may also be indicated.
Osteoarthritis may progress very slowly (over several years) or very quickly (you might notice a major change in just a few weeks or months). It all depends on your pet’s age, his or her activity level, the joints involved and the underlying cause. Some pets’ pain and loss of mobility can be kept to a minimum for long periods of time with a simple regimen of weight control, moderate, regular exercise and the occasional use of anti-inflammatory drugs if flare-ups occur. For others, severe damage to the joints may occur rapidly and require long-term medication and other therapy. In either case, your veterinarian can determine the best course of treatment for your pet’s particular condition. There is no reason why, with your loving attention and committed care, as well as your veterinarian’s guidance, your osteoarthritic pet cannot have a happy, healthy and comfortable life for many years to come.