Sadly, as many as one in five pets suffers from arthritis.

Arthritis in dogs and cats is a very common problem, especially in our older pets. It is estimated that one in five older pets suffers from osteoarthritis, resulting in debilitating joint inflammation, stiffness and joint pain.

A reluctance to mobilise is often seen as a sign of aging; however, it is frequently due to the treatable condition of osteoarthritis.

The colder winter months are when most of us, and our pets with arthritis, will suffer from this chronic, progressive and debilitating condition.

Fortunately, there are many treatment options that can make a huge difference to how our arthritic pets cope and to improve their level of comfort. Some newer cutting edge treatments, such as stem cell therapy, have made dramatic improvements in some pets’ quality of life.

The best treatment option for any pet showing signs of stiffness on rising, reluctance to climb stairs or walk as far as he or she used to walk, is weight management. Our bones and joints are designed to carry a certain body weight. Exceeding this optimal body weight places the joints are under excessive strain with every step they take. This can cause and perpetuate osteoarthritis.

Every half kilogram of extra body weight accounts for two kilograms' worth of additional force on their hips and knees with every step they take. Sixty per cent of our pets are overweight, and are subsequently at a greater risk of developing joint disease.

For many years we have used a natural therapy called glucosaminoglycans. This treatment comes in many formulations including injectable products, food additives and treats, and has been incorporated into some premium pet food diets.

These products help relieve the inflammation in joints and slow the progression of arthritis.Anti-inflammatories can make a dramatic difference to a pet’s quality of life by settling the pain associated with arthritis and increasing their mobility. Although anti-inflammatories are generally very well tolerated there are several potential side effects including upset tummy, liver and kidney problems. All pets starting an anti-inflammatory or using an anti-inflammatory in the long term should have regular health checks, which include kidney and liver blood test monitoring to make certain these medications are being tolerated.

One of the most exciting recent advances in the management of arthritis in pets is the use of stem cells. Stem cells are regenerative cells from the body’s repair mechanism and are the foundation cells for every organ, tissue and cell in the body.

Stem cell treatment involves an injection of stem cells into the arthritic or inflamed joint or tendon and essentially reduces the inflammation of the affected tissue, resulting in a dramatic reduction in pain and a subsequent improvement in mobility.

Stem cell therapy is in its developmental stages and is not yet a registered treatment option within Australia. Sydney Animal Hospitals is one of the chosen hospitals to work with Regeneus in treatment trials with stem cell therapy and closely follows all pets that receive the treatment for both improvement in clinical signs such as increased activity and decreased pain and monitoring very closely for any adverse side effects.

To date we have experienced no significant side effects, and some pet owners have gone as far as to describe the treatment results as miraculous. More information on stem cell therapy can be found on www.regeneus.com.au or you can contact the author.

Some pets with severe end-stage arthritis are receiving joint replacements just as people do. The most common joint replacement surgery is hip replacement in larger dog breeds with arthritis due to hip dysplasia. Vets are now also able to do hip replacements on smaller dogs and even cats and there are a few specialist veterinarians who have started doing elbow and knee replacements. These surgeries are generally for the pet that hasn’t responded to the range of non-invasive treatment options available.
As the winter months approach, remember that our aging furry friends also feel the effects of the cold. Don’t hesitate to consult your local veterinarian for an arthritis assessment, and to discuss available treatment options that would best suit your pet’s needs.

Top ways to help your arthritic pet