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Arthritis and Other Types of Joint Disease in Pets

Just like humans, dogs and cats can get a variety of joint diseases. However, there are some differences in risk factors and types that pet owners need to be aware of. For example, specific breeds of dogs are prone to certain types of joint disease that rarely affect other breeds.

Two older dogs sitting on a hiking trail.

That said, not all types of joint disease are breed-specific. Cats and dogs of all types may get osteoarthritis (OA), joint instability, and other such problems. As with humans, pets are most likely to encounter these diseases as they age.

Arthritis in Pets

Arthritis is likely the most common joint problem in pets. According to the International Association for the Study of Pain, 25 percent of pet dogs have a form of this condition. Meanwhile, a whopping 90 percent of cats have at least some radiological evidence of the disease, and 50 percent suffer from clinical signs of joint impairment.

In many cases, osteoarthritis appears not on its own, but as a result of some other joint disease process. Hip dysplasia, a fairly common problem in some breeds of dogs, can start the arthritic process. Other culprits include osteochondrosis dissecans, non-traumatic cranial cruciate ligament degeneration, and some other types of joint dysplasias. All of these problems irritate the joint and cause bone deterioration or abnormal bone growth.

It is important to remember that arthritis in pets also arises from the usual factors that cause it in humans: Obesity, advanced age, lack of exercise, and genetic predisposition. Weight control and regular exercise are easy to provide for animals, so owners should be sure to pay attention to them.

Treating Joint Problems

Treatment depends on which problems exist. Injuries to the tendons and ligaments may require surgery, while issues such as canine hip dysplasia are often dealt with using painkillers and by making the environment easier to traverse (for instance, by installing ramps for the dog to use).

Arthritis is often handled in a way similar to how humans deal with it: Painkillers and anti-inflammatories of various types are used to increase comfort and mobility. Specific amounts of exercise may be prescribed by the veterinarian as well. Non-drug dietary supplements, such as Omega-3s, have also been shown to help with the problem in pets. In dogs, joint replacement may be available, but more conservative treatments will be tried first.

Does Your Pet Seem to Have Joint Pain?

The first step is to have him or her evaluated to determine the cause and the extent of any inflammation and damage present in and around the painful joint. Here at Animal Hospital of Sullivan County, a veterinarian in Ferndale, NY, we typically take x-rays so we can see the bones of the joints. We'll also test for pain by looking for behavioral responses to touching jointed areas and the surrounding parts.

To get started on helping your pet live life to the fullest, just make an appointment at our animal hospital. Call us at 845-292-6711 to choose a convenient time.

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