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Opinion

Arthritis in dogs and cats: Recognising signs and symptoms

Tuesday 13 September 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Pet Talk

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Arthritis in dogs and cats: Recognising signs and symptoms
Human beings are able to decide for themselves when they need painkillers, dogs can’t and cats won’t. bopvets.co.nz/22091208

Dogs and cats rely on us noticing their pain, if we are going to help it, writes Dr Michael Baer, Te Are Manu Vet Clinic medical director.

It was painful just watching him walk. He swayed, braced for what was coming, planted his foot, put some weight on it, and swung the other leg forward as quickly as possible. Then a normal step, then the same rigmarole. Painkillers twice a day, sometimes more, helped him get through the day and sleep through the night. Luckily for my dad, he had a knee replacement operation. 

Dogs and cats have the same problems as my dad. As youngsters they run, jump and have themselves a great time. But joints degrade. A new joint has less friction than an ice cube floating over a frozen pond. Special cartilage and syrupy joint fluid make movement smooth and seamless. Then life happens, an average dog takes more than one million steps in its lifetime. That is a bit of wear and tear. Like metal fatigue, strength erodes, and joint cartilage does too.  The special cartilage is replaced with scar tissue after injuries. Instead of being frictionless, the joint feels like you are rubbing two cheese graters over each other – grrrgrrrgrrr as you walk along.

My dad was able to decide for himself when he needed painkillers, dogs can’t and cats won’t. And because the change is gradual, it is hard to see. From not noticeable to not noticed is a short step. My dad had a knee replacement because arthritis cannot be cured. We can’t offer that to our pets, so painkillers, food supplements and special diets are what we have.

Painkillers work, they kill pain, and they help slow down the changes that make arthritis get worse and worse. But they don’t reverse it and are not a cure. But for pets they are an important part of managing arthritis. There are daily tablets or liquid for dogs and cats, and for dogs there is a monthly treatment. Our pets often seem happier, and younger, when they aren’t sore all the time.

Joint supplements and diets usually contain omega 3 fatty acids, chondroitin, and glucosamine. The ingredients are usually from green lipped mussels, plant oils and deer velvet. They help prevent further damage and aid in repair, but once again they are not a cure. If there was a cure, my dad would not have had a knee replacement.

Dogs and cats rely on us noticing their pain, if we are going to help it. Grumpy? Pain? Slow to get off the ground? Pain? Won’t jump? Pain? Doesn’t like stairs? Pain? Walking on three legs? Pain. Dragging back legs? Pain! Can’t stand? Agony!

Keep an eye on your pets and if you think they might have arthritis give Te Are Manu a call. And don’t forget we are at the Avatiu Rugby Club on Thursday for our desexing clinic!