Arthritis simply means inflammation of the joint.
One of the most common forms of Arthritis in dogs and cats is osteoarthritis (OA), named because the problem is caused by the bones (osteo).
Pet arthritis (also known as feline arthritis or canine arthritis) can also be caused by:
- infection (septic arthritis or bacterial arthritis in dogs) or
- the body is simply attacking itself in an immune system malfunction (rheumatoid arthritis).
With pet osteoarthritis, bones are damaged because the cartilage has given way or is being damaged.
Cartilage is there to act as a cushion preventing bone from hitting bone as the joint moves. If the cartilage dries, roughens, or chips, bare bones are exposed. The exposed bone flattens and loses resilience so the joint no longer moves smoothly; it jerks and creaks.
In response, the body sends white blood cells to the joint, but instead of repairing damage, the white blood cells release enzymes and free radicals that make things worse. This is especially true if the body is doing this over a period of time.
The synovial fluid bathing the joint loses viscosity because it is damaged by the white blood cells’ enzymes. As the synovial fluid thins and so it’s no longer able to resist joint compression or provide lubrication.
Eventually, even the capsule that surrounds the joint inflames. Your pet then has painful arthritis.
Key facts about arthritis in dogs and cats:
- Over 90% of geriatric cats have arthritis
- Over 12 million cats in the US have arthritis
- 1 out of every 5 dogs over the age of 7 has arthritis
Which pets are most at risk for developing arthritis?
Most dogs in their senior years have arthritis. In fact, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common skeletal disease of dogs.
Working, athletic, obese dogs-and those with diabetes or Cushing’s disease-are especially prone.
Trauma and injury, hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia also predispose pets to arthritis or early onset arthritis.
Cats get arthritis too, and estimates are that 12 million cats in the US (20% of cats) have feline arthritis.
Canine and feline arthritis symptoms
- Loss of interest to play or walk
- Difficulty rising
- Difficulty with stairs
- Snaps when petted
Some symptoms of arthritic dogs and cats are that the pet may have lame or stiff joints. They may also have swollen and painful joints that creak.
Some pets hide their arthritis pain, but you’ll notice they don’t want to play because it’s difficult to run and wrestle. They can’t leap on or off the bed, or climb into a car without help.
Some pets bite at, or lick, their joints because they ache. Other pets bite us when their joints ache. That’s one reason a ten-year-old Golden Retriever who has loved children all her life, now snaps at the grand kids.
With arthritic cats, it can be difficult to diagnose feline arthritis because they are naturally agile. Cats’ agility allows them to compensate for arthritis and we may not notice limping.
Instead, cats with arthritis display signs of chronic pain. Some of these sines are that:
- they’re grumpy and poorly groomed
- they may be constipated because it is difficult for them to squat to eliminate
- they take several small jumps rather than that single leap to reach the counter.
If you notice these signs, consider having your veterinarian evaluate your cat for joint disease.
X-rays may reveal arthritis. In fact, there is evidence of feline arthritis in 90% of cats over 12 years of age.
How are pets diagnosed with arthritis?
Early in the arthritic disease process, only “soft” tissues, such as cartilage and joint membranes, are affected. However, soft tissue disease is almost impossible to detect on an X-ray.
The joint however, will be swollen and painful. As boney changes become evident, X-rays will clearly show arthritic changes. Bones will be flattened rather than rounded, and little spicules of bone may line the joint.
The diagnosis of septic (infectious) arthritis or bacterial arthritis in dogs and cats is done with blood tests and an analysis of the fluid surrounding the joint.
With an infection, synovial fluid contains infection-fighting white blood cells and bacteria.
Rheumatoid arthritis in cats and dogs is diagnosed with blood tests that show the body is attacking its own joints. Using blood, a Coombs test, antinuclear antibody test (ANA), and rheumatoid factor test help confirm rheumatoid arthritis. With time, X-rays will also confirm the presence of arthritis.
When overweight, arthritic pets lose weight, their arthritic pain significantly decreases.
Always keep an eye on your fur buddy’s weight and supplement with Sashas Blend for Complete Joint Health.