The cold weather has arrived and it might not just be us that finds it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. You might notice your pet taking longer to get up, seeming a bit stiff or lame, generally slowing down or getting a bit grumpy. Very often this is a sign of age related degenerative joint disease (DJD), or osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as simply ‘arthritis’.
DJD mostly affects cartilage, the hard but slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another, and absorbs energy from movement. In DJD, the surface layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Bone may grow on the edges of the joint and pieces of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, causing further pain and damage.
Most often we see DJD in our senior pets (generally considered the last 1/3 of their life expectancy). But just because age related changes are normal, doesn’t mean our pets should suffer in silence. There are many ways we can manage DJD, including specialised diets, supplements and various types of medications that help to slow down the damage and manage the pain. It’s very important that high quality products, designed for our pets, are used. The type, source, and quality of ingredients are crucial. Never give your pets human pain medications. They metabolise drugs differently to us, and in most cases human medications are unsafe or deadly to pets. One measure you can take at home is ensuring your pet has a warm, cushioned bed to sleep on.
Your veterinarian will assess what stage your pet is at and offer the most suitable options for managing their condition and maximise their quality of life. As with any health issue, the sooner we see them the better.