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Arthritis can affect dogs and cats of any age, although we frequently think of it as a disease for older animals. It can be mild and unnoticeable, or it can be debilitating—severely affecting your pet's quality of life. Dogs are more susceptible to arthritis than cats, and the larger dog breeds are more vulnerable than smaller breeds. Cats suffering from arthritis tend to show signs of pain less than dogs. Although, they do experience arthritis pain as well.

Signs of Pain in Cats: Cats in pain are more stoic than dogs and mask pain more effectively. However, there are some signs to watch out for.

  • Hissing when painful spot is touched
  • Unresponsive to petting and affection
  • Crying, whining
  • Licking and grooming of a painful area
  • Loss of appetite
  • More rarely- aggression, ears back.
  • Any Sudden behavior change Whether you have a cat or dog, early detection is important. The most common signs of joint disease include stiffness, limping, or favoring a limb - particularly after sleep or resting, inability to rise, reluctance to jump or even climb stairs, and noticeable pain.

    What Is Arthritis?
    Arthritis is a painful, degenerative joint disease or deterioration of the joint that can hinder movement and cause your pet pain. Almost all dogs and cats will develop varying degrees of arthritis at some point in their lives. Arthritis is more common among older dogs but younger and middle aged dogs, as well as cats, have also been known to exhibit the symptoms of arthritis.  Unfortunately, many of the cases go undiagnosed because owners attribute the subtle changes in their dogs to be signs of old age, or merely a case of slowing down. There are several types of arthritis that can affect your dog, which include Osteoarthritis, Degenerative Joint Disease, and Hip Dysplasia. Other joint diseases that occur in dogs are Elbow Dysplasia, Knee Dysplasia, Knee Stifle, Osteochondrosis, Hypertrophic Arthritis, Shoulder Degeneration, Wrist Arthritis, and Kneecap Dislocation.
  • Osteoarthritis: A chronic condition in both cats and dogs that progresses slowly. As the condition prolongs, the bony structures rub against one another, therefore causing discomfort to your pet

    Joint Disease: Caused by the breakdown or destruction in portions of the joint. This condition does not necessarily mean that your dog is suffering from any kind of inflammation.

    Hip Dysplasia is a disease that affects the ball and socket joint in your dog. This condition causes numerous complications and discomfort to your dog. In this case, inflammation is common, calcium build-ups take place, your dog experiences muscle pain, and the tissues in the surrounding areas begin to break down. These joint diseases occur mainly in large dogs such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, or medium sized dogs such as Labradors. However, this does not necessarily mean that other breed of dogs would not experience joint diseases. Arthritis can occur to any breed, of any age.

    What are the Symptoms?

    The first step towards treating your pet to relief from arthritis is to actually learn the symptoms that occur in arthritis.  Veterinarians have developed a list of signs that might indicate that your dog or cat has arthritis. While cats show signs of pain less than dogs, an observant owner should be able to detect any significant changes. Any dog or cat can develop arthritis, and knowing the signs and symptoms of pain will help you determine when your dog may need immediate attention.

    Could your dog have arthritis? Ask yourself these simple questions:

    1. Does your dog tire easily or lag behind?

    2. Does your dog limp or appear stiff after activity?

    3. Is your dog reluctant to climb steps or jump up?

    4. Is your dog slow to rise from a resting position?

    Could your cat have arthritis? Ask yourself these simple questions:

    1. Is your cat reluctant to walk?

    2. Does your cat limp or favor one side of its body? 3. Have you noticed a loss of appetite?

    4. Is your cat less active than usual? If you answered "yes" to even one of these questions, it's possible that your dog or cat is suffering from painful arthritis. We recommend that you seek treatment as soon as possible using the products we recommend. If you answered "no" to all the questions, you might still want to prevent your pet from getting arthritis by treating him or her with vitamins and nutritional supplements. The sooner your pet is properly diagnosed and treated, the sooner he or she can overcome the pain and become an active member of your family again.

    The Causes of Arthritis

    There are many diseases that can affect the joints of your dog. Joint diseases occur as a result of:

  • Old age.
  • Genetic tendency
  • Wear and tear on the joints
  • Ligament, tendon, or muscle disease, e.g., ruptured anterior cruciate ligament
  • Fractures involving the joint
  • Developmental disorders, e.g., hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, osteochondritis dissecans, Legg-Perthes disease
  • Congenital disorders, e.g., Wobbler's syndrome (cervical spondylomyelopathy), luxated patella
  • Dietary and hormonal disease, e.g., hyperparathyroidism, obesity
  • Metabolic disorders, e.g., von Willebrand's disease (hemophilia) in dogs
  • Degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis)
  • Inflammatory joint disease, e.g., Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis
  • Degenerative spinal joint disease, e.g., intervertebral disc disease, cauda equina syndrome
  • Management of Arthritis Medical treatment of hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis has greatly improved in the last several years thanks to the introduction and approval of several new joint supplements and drugs. Through proper diet, exercise, joint supplements, anti-inflammatories and pain relief, you will be able to decrease the progression of degenerative joint disease, and help your pet live a much more comfortable life.

    Joint Supplements

    Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Glucosamine and chondroitin are two ingredients of supplements that have become widely used in treating both animals and humans for osteoarthritis. Due to the overwhelming success in treating patients with osteoarthritis, these products have come to the forefront of therapy and are becoming the most popular products for managing arthritis today. Glucosamine is the major sugar found in glycosaminoglycans (GAG)and hyaluronate, which are important building blocks in the synthesis and maintenance of cartilage in the joint. Studies have shown that Glucosamine helps to improve cartilage metabolism and upregulates proteoglycan synthesis. Chondroitin is the predominant GAG found in articular cartilage. Chondrotin enhances the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans and inhibits damaging enzymes in the joint. These active ingredients essentially help to rebuild and lubricate joints. When a dog has hip dysplasia or other osteoarthritis, the joint wears away and the bone-to-bone contact creates pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin give the cartilage-forming cells (chondrocytes) the building blocks they need to synthesize new cartilage and to repair the existing damaged cartilage. These products can help ease pain, but primarily work by actually healing the damage that has been done. Glucosamine and Chondroitin products generally take at least six weeks to begin to heal the cartilage, and most animals need to be maintained on these products the rest of their lives to prevent further cartilage breakdown. These products are very safe and show very few side effects. There are many different glucosamine/chondroitin products on the market, but the best results are from products that contain pure ingredients that are human grade in quality. Joint Supplements such as Joint MAX, Synovi and Glyco-Flex fit this category.

    Other Ingredients to Consider Methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM): MSM is a natural, sulfur-containing compound produced by kelp in the ocean. MSM is reported to enhance the structural integrity of connective tissue, and help reduce scar tissue. MSM has been promoted as having powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties.

    Creatine: Creatine is an amino acid that aids in the body production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a fuel, for short, intense bursts of energy. This helps create muscle mass by allowing improved mobility and exercise in your pet. Creatine may be helpful in dogs with muscle atrophy associated with osteoarthritis.

    Vitamin C: Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and is an important nutrient in the synthesis of collagen and cartilage. Because dogs and cats can manufacture their own Vitamin C and do not require it in their diet like humans do, the efficacy of using Vitamin C in the management of osteoarthritis in dogs remains unclear. Supplementing with Vitamin C at a reasonable level will not result in a toxicity and may prove to have a beneficial effect.

    Antioxidants: Antioxidants are your pet's major defense system against the scourge of free-radicals and oxidative stress, and help keep joint damage to a minimum. Besides Vitamin C, other beneficial antioxidants include Vitamin E, Zinc, Manganese, and Citrus Bioflavonoids.

    Manganese: Manganese ascorbate, in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin, have been found helpful in treating osteoarthritis pain. Lack of manganese in animals has been found to cause improper formation of bone and cartilage, may decrease the body's ability to use sugar properly, and may cause growth problems.

    Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA are often used for the management of the signs of atropy in dogs. Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, some have advocated their use in dogs with osteoarthritis. Joint MAX Triple Strength and Synovi G3 both contain DHA and EPA.

    Injectable Disease-Modifying Osteoarthritis Agents: Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan (Adequan): Adequan is a product that is administered as an injection. A series of shots are given over weeks and very often have favorable results. The cost and the inconvenience of weekly injections are a deterrent to some owners, especially since the oral glucosamine products are so effective. This product helps prevent the breakdown of cartilage and may help with the synthesis of new cartilage.

    Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Prescription Drugs: Carprofen (Rimadyl), Etodolac (EtoGesic), Deracoxib (Deramaxx), Meloxicam (Metacam): These are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) developed for use in dogs with osteoarthritis. They are strong and effective painkillers and anti-inflammatory agents. They are prescription products and because of potential side effects, careful adherence to dosing quantity and frequency must be followed.

    These products are often used initially with glucosamine therapy and then as the glucosamine product begins to work, the NSAID dose may be reduced or even eliminated.

    Weight Management and Exercise: Weight management is a major factor in joint disease prevention and treatment that should be addressed. Helping a dog lose pounds until he reaches his recommended weight, and keeping it there, may be the most important thing an owner can do for a pet. Exercise is the next important step. Excersize is vital for weight loss. Acute exercise increases the resting metabolic rate for 2-48 hours. In addition, it provides for good range of motion and muscle building and limits wear and tear on the joints is the best. Humans with arthritis who do low-impact exercises find that they have improved function and reduced pain. Leash walking, swimming, walking on treadmills, slow jogging, and going up and down stairs are excellent low-impact exercises. Swimming is one of the best methods. The buoyancy of water is significant and limits the impact on the joint while promoting muscle strength, tone and joint motion. Whichever activity you choose for your dog, it should be kept to a minimum, and excessive play with other animals should be avoided.

    Warmth and Comfort: Most people with arthritis find that the signs tend to worsen in cold, damp weather. Keeping your arthritic pet warm, may help him be more comfortable. Canine Parkas will help keep joints warmer. Beds with orthopedic foam such as Thermal Dog Cushion and Canine Cooler Bed distribute weight evenly and reduce pressure on joints. They are also much easier for the pet to get out of. Place the bed in a warm spot away from drafts. Another great product that can make your pet more comfortable is treat like Bottom's Up Leash, a hind-leg support harness for dogs with hip dysplasia, arthritis, or any other problem that affects the hind legs or spine. You should also avoid any unecessary stair climbing. Ramps can be used to aid your pet if it has to climb.

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