Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is common in dogs and cats. The tissues of the joints start to deteriorate with time and eventually lead to pain, inflammation and permanent and progressive joint damage. Underlying factors that can lead to or exacerbate osteoarthritis include obesity, abnormal joint conformation that leads to repeated and prolonged joint stress, injury as in the case with ligament tears, joint surgery, and even immune mediated types of joint destruction. Signs of arthritis often related to the secondary pain can be as subtle as changes in behavior such as snapping or pacing or reduced appetite, to limping or difficulty rising/jumping.

Osteoarthritis is not cured but managed. A veterinarian can do x-rays of the joint to further characterize the stage and extent of arthritis. Weight loss is integral in obese/overweight patients. Controlled activity also keeps strong muscle mass for support in addition to keeping diseased joints more flexible. There are supplements and medications to slow the process down. There are even light therapy/laser and rehabilitation options for arthritis management. These are geared to reducing pain and inflammation, promoting healing of damaged tissues and improving joint blood supply. There are many options for making arthritic pets more comfortable. Inquire with a veterinary care provider about evaluation for osteoarthritis and treatment options if you suspect your pet may suffer from the disease.

Early intervention is the key to slowing progression of arthritis, improving the quality of life for the dog or cat.

- Dr. Ashly LaRoche