This is a degenerative process that begins with damage to the cartilage. This should be smooth surfaces that glide against each other at the end of joints. Instead it becomes roughened and there are secondary changes to the joint. The joint capsule becomes inflamed and there is also a reduction in the amount of fluid which decreases friction within the joint. Eventually there is abnormal bone destruction and growth which can reduce the joints ability to move in a normal fashion.
In dogs it is common to see stiffness and a reluctance to run or jump. Osteoarthritis affects more than just dogs- cats, birds and even elephants have been diagnosed with this condition.
Changes to the joint cause pain which can be debilitating and cause significant secondary compensatory changes and discomfort. This makes pain management the most important goal of rehabilitation.
Maintaining range of motion to affected joints which are likely to have reduced range of motion. The joints surrounding the arthritic joint make of for the reduction and will increase their mobility in response. This increases the risk of future injury.
Improve active stabilisation of the joint through strengthening muscles.
Manage weight to minimise the stress placed on the joint with unnecessary forces through the joint.
Maintain activity levels and mental stimulation to achieve great quality of life.
While medication is the most obvious treatment for osteoarthritis there are many more options that can give your pet relief.
Exercise therapy is the mainstay of long term arthritis management. It will become a simple addition to your lifestyle that will eventually fade into the background, but give your dog lasting relief.
Manual therapies can be in the form of the treatments I will perform on your pet, but they also include the massage we can teach you, once again ensuring your pet gets regular care.
Thermal therapy - heat packs, heated blankies, and cool packs change the blood flow to the area and targeted use can keep your pet comfy.
To get the best level of pain management using medications it is best to use a combination rather than single medications on their own. These medications potentiate (make others work better) each other resulting in reduced doses needed for the same affect and thus reducing the likelihood of side effects. It can be daunting to have your pet on a variety of medications but we are always happy to work out a plan that is achievable for you and result in the best outcome for your pet.
To minimise the systemic (whole body) impact of medications we can perform targeted joint injections to treat the disease process occurring and as disease progresses, modify the chemicals within the joint that cause pain. Initially we can start of with a product called Hyuralonic acid, it increases the fluid in the joint that adds to the slipperiness of the surfaces, helping them glide against each other. The next step up is Platelet rich plasma (PRP) which we are proud to start offering this year.
Other important treatments include weight loss, pentosan and nutraceuticals.
Why does this disease process occur, can we prevent it?
Prevention of Osteoarthritis begins from the day your pet moves into your house. By setting them up as young animals to succeed we reduce the risk of arthritis development.
Appropriate weight from a young age can drastically reduce how quickly we see signs of osteoarthritis and have a positive impact on your dogs quality of life and even their longevity. You can look at this blog to help you understand what a good body condition score looks like.
Exercise is important for young growing animals, those in the prime of their life and the more 'mature' pets. Weight bearing exercises (i.e. those done on land against gravity) are needed to develop healthy joints and bones. Compression across the joint is vital to cartilage nutrient delivery and joint nutrition. Excessive exercise can cause harm, so using common sense and choosing appropriate play buddies, stopping when they are tired will minimise this risk.