September is marked as Arthritis Awareness Month in our country. It is important to recognize that people, dogs, and cats suffer daily from this chronic painful, life-altering condition. We all know of a family member, colleague, or friend that suffers from arthritis. Similarly, we all likely know a pet that also suffers from arthritis. We may just not know the symptoms to watch for!
Symptoms in dogs include stiffness of the gait, reluctance to jump on couches or run up and down stairs. Tiredness during walks, panting, pacing and shaking are other symptoms. Cats may show any of these symptoms as well, but also can demonstrate more subtle signs such as inappropriate defecation, over-grooming, matted hair coat, irritability, and vomiting to name a few signs. If your pet has been showing any of these symptoms, it is likely time to help his or her comfort levels by seeking your veterinarian’s advice.
Similar to people, young pets may also be affected by arthritis. Irrespective of age, the quality of life of an arthritic pet can be immensely improved through early diagnosis and treatment. Pets with a history of injuries or previous surgery are more likely to develop signs of arthritis earlier in life. While osteoarthritis is not curable, it is generally manageable with anti-inflammatory medications, appropriate exercise (swimming is a better activity than running is), glucosamine, and other nutritional supplementation and appropriate bedding for the pet. Multimodal therapy is often desirable as the pet ages, as one single intervention will likely not work in the long haul.
From a human perspective, a study in 2012 by the Arthritis Society found that one in three Canadians living with arthritis had to quit working as a result of their condition, making it one of the leading causes of long-term disability in the country. The disease costs the Canadian economy billions of dollars every year, both directly and indirectly in human healthcare costs and lost productivity. Let us educate ourselves and help spread awareness regarding arthritis in people and pets, and fight this chronic painful condition.
By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner
Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.