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Viv the vet: Arthritis in dogs - 15 September


- Arthritis is a general name for inflammation of the joint
- This inflammation often leads to pain, stiffness, swelling and a lack of mobility
- Healthy joints are lined with healthy cartilage that produces synovial fluid that lubricates the joint
- Damage to the cartilage affects the lubricating fluid production and leads to dry grating joint surfaces
- Inflammatory fluid from the damage causes swelling in the joint capsule, resulting in pain
- The underlying bone also becomes damaged as the protective cartilage has gone
- The body tries to heal the damage by adding more bone to the area which leads to a loss of movement in the joint due to extra bone, as well as thickening of the joint
- This is called Degenerative Joint Disease

Causes of Arthritis

- Wear and tear i.e. Aging, excessive exercise, trauma from accidents, over exercising in the first year of life when the joints are growing
- Genetics - hereditary conditions like Hip Dysplasia (poorly fitting ball/socket joint) can lead to DJD
- Immune related problems,(such as Rheumatoid Arthritis) where the immune system is overactive, leading to severe inflammation of the joints (arthritis) and possible long term damage resulting in DJD

Treatment and management of Arthritis

- For acute inflammation due to trauma, strict rest, anti-inflammatory and support from bandaging can help the healing process
- For chronic (long term) degenerative arthritis, there are many things that can help the symptoms, but complete repair of the damaged joint is not possible unless it is completely replaced by surgery
- Make sure your dogs weight is normal, carrying extra weight will often make joint problems much worse
- Control of pain is the most important treatment aim, as arthritis can be very uncomfortable and severely affect the animals' quality of life.
- Use of anti-inflammatory and pain relief drugs are important to reduce pain and swelling, and some can slow the degeneration in the joint as well
- Protection and regeneration of cartilage by some drugs useful in the long term
- Acupuncture is excellent for most joint problems
- Food supplements such as Mussel extract, Glucosamine, animal cartilage
- Some herbs can help e.g. Devils Claw, Willow bark (contains Salicylic acid as in aspirin)
- Essential fatty acids found in fish oils and evening primrose seeds can markedly help reduce inflammation
- Appropriate exercise (gentle daily walks, no jumping or leaping) and rest
- Total hip replacements can be performed when the joint is very severely malformed or damaged  e.g. Some breeds such as New Foundlands, can have a genetic predisposition for bad hips  (can be very expensive, approx $3000 per joint)
- Management rather than cure