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St Anne's Veterinary Group Blog

» Osteoarthritis

What is osteoarthritis? It's a very common process where the cartilage starts to breakdown. Apparently 20% of all dogs have OA and 80% of geriatric dogs, which is quite considerable number. Once it starts it generally continues to progress. The disease usually starts in the cartilage but then takes over the whole joint including the synovial membrane, fluid, bone, tendons, ligaments and muscle.

So why do we see it so frequently? Well the body naturally ages and this can be expected or there can be a genetic component. Although we see OA in younger dogs which is usually secondary after an initial problem like a form of dysplasia or a trauma such as a fracture. 

OA unfortunately cannot be cured but is more of a management issue for us and owners. The three points we try to manage are having an appropriate exercise regime, maintaining an optimum bodyweight and using medication. 

If the patient is overweight, it's not just the extra pressure on the joints that is the issue. They have done studies on humans who were overweight and they found excess adipose tissue in inflammation, this has been found to be another driver of the disease. It also goes hand in hand as if their OA is bad they will exercise less and are more prone to weight gain.

Exercise regimes must be tailored to the individual, we can always help advise the best thing for you pet with a vet or nurse consult where we can body condition score the patient and talk about lameness or stiffness and go from there. 

As there is no cure, the medication on offer can only help mask the pain of the condition and not actually treat the condition. Anti-inflammatories are obviously going to help with reducing inflammation which can ease pain but exercise and weight loss (if necessary) are just as important, owner compliance is the only factor. Reducing pain will allow the patient to exercise, therefore maintaining muscle mass which is important. Supplements are also important such as glucosamine and chondroitin, omega 3 fatty acids and green lipped muscle. We always advise using the best quality supplements initially for a good 6-8 weeks. If you're seeing benefits then you have the choice of trying cheaper ones because at least you know that it works for your pet. If you start with cheaper ones and they don't work, you won't know if they just aren't going to work for your pet or if you really needed to try better quality ones.

In more severe cases there are surgery options, acupuncture and hydrotherapy or physiotherapy. These options are usually going to involve a referral.

If you are worried that your pet is suffering with stiff and/or painful joints please call 01323 640011 and make an appointment.


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