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Osteoarthritis (OA) a debilitating disease of the joints that causes cartilage to breakdown leading to joint dysfunction and chronic pain. It is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs affecting 80% of dogs over the age of 8 years old and 90% of cats over the age of 10. This disease often requires careful, multimodal management so our experienced team have put together a list of FAQs to help understand why this disease is so damaging and how to manage the condition. Book an appointment with us now if you think your pet could be suffering with this disease.

Osteoarthritis FAQs


What is arthritis?

The term arthritis means an inflamed joint. It is a complex, progressive condition that affects all parts of the joint including the cartilage, bone, soft tissues, joint fluid and nerves.


What symptoms will my pet show?

Arthritis is a slowly progressive condition that often affects multiple joints, so the symptoms are often subtle and don't always include a limp. They could include a change in posture or gait, appearing 'stiff' after rest, reluctance to go on walks or to climb up stairs, reluctance to jump on to the window ledge, a change in behaviour or mood, sleeping more, fear or anxiety when asked to perform simple tasks or even swollen joints.


How is OA diagnosed?

A thorough history and physical examination is very important in ruling out other or concurrent disease processes. Often this will involve assessing your pet's gait (videos are very helpful for this particularly with cats) and also a full orthopaedic assessment and manipulation of the joints. Blood tests may also be performed. Definitive diagnosis requires imaging such as x-rays to visualise the joints.


Are there side effects?

It is important to remember that every patient is different and not every animal will respond to a drug in the same way. Side effects are dependent on the medications that are prescribed but can sometimes include gastrointestinal symptoms. We will regularly monitor your pet's kidney and liver parameters while on medications to make sure they can continue to tolerate long-term medications too.


Can I prevent OA?

Certain developmental diseases can lead to the formation of OA. These can include diseases such as hip and elbow dysplasia, patella luxation and CCL failure. Schemes do exist to screen pets for some of these conditions so it is important to consider this when purchasing a puppy. Managing external factors such as your pet's weight and body condition score can help to reduce the likelihood of developing the disease as well managing your pet's environment and activity.


What are the causes of OA?

Arthritis is caused by abnormal forces going through a joint or by normal forces going through an abnormal joint. Genetics, weight, activity, trauma or injuries can all lead to the development of arthritis. 


Is it painful?

Yes! Our pets are very good at hiding pain and that is one of the main reasons this disease goes unnoticed or even may be mistaken for 'ageing'. If left uncontrolled, chronic pain can cause a wind-up effect that leads to nerve sensitisation that makes the pain much more difficult to control.

It's always best to treat and manage this condition early so get in touch if you suspect your pet may be suffering this disease.


What is the treatment?

We often use a multimodal approach to treat and manage patients with OA. This could involve a combination of anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), pain killers, monoclonal antibody injections, joint supplements, diet or injections into the joints. We also look at how we can manage the patient's lifestyle and environment and utilise complementary therapies such as hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, osteopathy, massage, laser-therapy and more. Surgical treatments can also be considered depending on the cause of the OA.


Will the medication cure OA?

Sadly not yet. There are no known cures for OA at this time but we do have the latest treatments available at Max & Min Vets to help manage the disease as safely as possible.


What if I do nothing?

OA often starts in 1 joint or area but if left, will start to affect multiple areas as the pet shifts it's weight causing abnormal forces going through otherwise normal joints. Over time, this then leads to the soft tissue structures that would normally help support the joint weakening leading to further dysfunction and disuse. The uncontrolled pain then continues to wind up and even small innocuous stimuli can cause a large pain response. Eventually, this will lead to difficulty walking or even collapse.

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