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Joint diseases

How often does osteoarthritis occur?
Joint diseases occur regularly in our pets. The most common joint disease in dogs and cats is osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease of the joints that gradually worsens. About 20% of all dogs get osteoarthritis during their life and almost all cats older than 15 years suffer from osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can occur in almost any joint in the body and is caused by overload, trauma, developmental problems (e.g. hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia), infections and autoimmune diseases.

How is a normal joint made up?
A joint is usually made up of 2 bone ends that are covered with cartilage, which are surrounded by a joint capsule. The cartilage at the ends of the bones serves as a shock absorber that prevents damage to the underlying bone. The inner side of the joint capsule is covered with a mucous layer which is called synovia. This mucous layer produces synovial fluid. This thick, viscous liquid is a kind of lubricant for the joint and together with the cartilage it makes sure that the bone ends can move smoothly in relation to each other.

What changes occur in a joint with osteoarthritis?
In a normal joint there is a balance between the build-up and breakdown of cartilage. Overload of the joint can disturb this balance and can damage the cartilage. In addition, the quality of the cartilage reduces by aging. As a result, the cartilage becomes less elastic and can absorb shocks less well. The resulting damage to the cartilage can be repaired less well, making an irregular surface. This allows the bone ends to move less well in relation to each other, which on its turn leads to stiffness. The quality and amount of the synovial fluid also changes. In a joint with osteoarthritis, the synovial fluid is less thick and viscous than in a normal joint, which reduces the shock absorbing capacity of the joint. The result of these changes is that the cartilage damages further, which makes that shocks need to be absorbed by the bones and the joint capsule. Without the covering cartilage, the bone ends scrape along each another and get also slightly damaged because of this. The bone will try to repair this damage by producing bone spurs, also called osteophytes. These osteophytes ensure a further stiffening of the joint. Inflammation often accompanies the previous described changes in the joint.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
It is important to realize that the symptoms that occur with osteoarthritis, are caused by pain. This pain is often showed by relieving the affected joints (limping/lameness). Animals with osteoarthritis often have problems with getting up and show stiffness or lameness. Usually, the limping/stiffness is worse during the first steps and improves when your pet starts walking around. The lameness or stiffness may vary in severity. The complaints are usually worse after a day with many activities. Animals with osteoarthritis often don’t want to jump or climb stairs anymore.

What can I do if my pet has osteoarthritis?
It is good to realize that once a joint is damaged, there is no point of return. Fortunately it is possible to relieve the symptoms and limit the progress of damage. This can be achieved in different ways, often a combination of these measures is the most effective:

- Keep your pet on an optimal weight. Obesity leads to overload and thereby also more damage to the joints.

- Adjust the exercise. For dogs with osteoarthritis, it is better to walk 10 minutes several times a day than once a day a great hike. In addition, it is important to move as much as possible in straight lines. Swimming is also good for pets with osteoarthritis, because swimming trains the muscles without load.

- Support the joints with nutritional supplements or a diet. We have a wide range of nutritional supplements for dogs and cats in our assortment that positively influence the quality of the cartilage and synovia fluid.

- Treatment with painkillers/non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. With progressive osteoarthritis, it is often necessary to use painkillers to relieve the symptoms. Most painkillers are actually non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that have a good analgesic effect. The advantage of these drugs is that not only the pain is inhibited, but also the inflammatory response. We have several painkillers in our assortment, some only available on prescription.

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