bones to move back and forth against each other without pain or discomfort. The area is enclosed in a joint capsule that contains joint fluid that further lubricates the action of the bones as they move back and forth. If the joint becomes inflamed, injured, diseased, or as the result of abnormal aging processes, the surfaces within the joint and the surrounding bone may become deformed. The smooth interaction between the opposing bones is lost and this usually leads to a painful condition we refer to as arthritis.
The area or junction where two bones meet on an animal's body is referred to as a joint. The areas of the bones that come into contact with each other are covered with an incredibly smooth surface of cartilage. This allows the
In an arthritic joint, the cartilage is worn away
and the bone ends come in contact with
each other, causing pain. As the disease
progresses, the bone becomes more
roughened and an irreversible domino-like
cascade begins as more cartilage is worn
away and more bony changes occur.
We can do nothing to modify the bony changes,
but as veterinarians our management plan
would consist of three main components.
We can try to (1) decrease the speed at
which the disease progresses, (2) help the
dog be more comfortable, and (3) support
the healthy joints that are now going to
have to take on more of the workload.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
like Quellin™ or Rimadyl are prescribed to decrease the
inflammation that spurs the progression of
the disease, and also to decrease the pain.
Depending upon the severity of the condition,
these may be given on an as needed basis,
or up to every day for the life of the animal.
Because they are very powerful drugs, dogs
on NSAIDs must be monitored for side effects
such as stomach ulcers and liver disease.
Weight control is critical - we can't
overemphasize this. If a dog is carrying extra
weight, even a few pounds, this puts extra stress
on the arthritic joints as well as the healthy joints.
This exacerbates the problem and will most
likely lead to faster progression of the disease.
Exercise is important to maintain the
muscle mass around the arthritic joint to
help stabilize it. In addition, the muscles
on the healthy limbs will need to be
strong, since those limbs will bear more
of the dog's weight. Non-weight bearing
exercise, such as swimming, is the best.
We want your dog to enjoy life with
you and remain as active as possible,
and there are physical aids that can
help, such as ramps, stairs, and
lifts. Orthopedic beds can also help
the dog be more comfortable.
Finally, we need to keep the rest of
the joints healthy and we recommend
non-prescription joint support products
containing ingredients such as
glucosamine and chondroitin, which
are in our Joint Care Line. These
should be used on a daily basis.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such
as those in our Omega-3 Gel Caps or
Soft Chews are also recommended.
By using this multi-pronged
approach, we can usually manage
arthritis successfully and allow
you and your dog to have many
more enjoyable years together.