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Arthritis and our Pets… Why Early Diagnosis Makes Such a Difference!

Ok, diagnosing anything early is generally going to be a good thing so no surprises so far… however, when we’re talking about conditions that are often initially insidious and can take years to become externally apparent (to their pet parents), that early diagnosis really is a life changer.

One such condition is Osteoarthritis also known as Degenerative Joint Disease, as well as its associated causes (such as hip dysplasia) which we often relate to old age but actually can start to manifest at a young age and impact our pets over many years. 

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation suggests that 20% of all adult dogs (so one in five dogs over the age of one) is impacted:

“The most common type of canine arthritis is degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, affecting one out of five adult dogs in the United Sates, the Arthritis Foundation recently reported.”

A number that is estimated to increase to 65% of all dogs over the age of seven…. Which is a lot of dogs!

And… whilst it is sometimes considered a more common canine condition (perhaps because the signs of advanced arthritis in dogs can be more obvious), our feline friends also suffer from arthritic diseases, with some breeds (i.e. Scottish Folds and hybrids of…) being genetically predisposed to the affliction (read more about Scottish Folds here) and affected from birth. However, according to the “International Society of Feline Medicine” (ISFM) up to 60% of adult cats and a whopping 90% of cats over the age of twelve are estimated to suffer to some degree with arthritic conditions, many of these are considered severe in older cats.

The sad reality is that whilst there may be higher rates of arthritic conditions in certain species, breeds and age groups… it is a universal disease that, as human sufferers will attest, is often very painful, debilitating and can have a massive impact on quality of life, health and wellbeing. Not just physically but mentally and emotionally too. Added to this is the probability that many animals will have a shorter life if arthritic diseases are not treated and quality of life becomes irrevocably compromised.  

So, what can be done to help? 

Well, unfortunately Arthritis is not a curable disease, there is no magic pill and, once diagnosed, it will require ongoing attention… 

The good news is that it is definitely a treatable condition, and, to a small degree, it can be preventable (or at least delayable) through a combination of positive actions and lifestyle conditions.

The idea of prevention does need to be caveated insofar as there are many factors that influence prevalence of arthritic diseases and, whilst good diet, appropriate (and frequent) exercise along with regular veterinary interventions can support a reduced incidence of arthritis, the fact is that for many animals (and humans) arthritis is going to happen, it’s a question of when, not if.

Therefore, the most important step, the life changer… is identifying the condition early on and establishing a treatment and management strategy that can:

  1. 1. Support your pet physically to move freely, behave naturally and retain a positive quality of life

Which can be achieved by:

  1. 2. Managing pain, inflammation and symptoms through medication, supplements and appropriate medical tools (such as K-Laser).  

For Pet Parents, being aware of common indicators and behaviour changes will increase the likelihood of an early diagnosis significantly. As we know, pets (especially cats) are often very adept at hiding pain and signs of weakness. However, there are a few common pointers to look out for… Which, in keeping with GVC’s aim to keep things simple, we have listed as our: 

Top five traits for pet parents to look out for (which is a bit of a mouthful)…! 

  1. A change in your pet’s physical ability
    1. Have they stopped jumping up on to bed/sofa/car seat?
    2. Are they less likely to climb their cat scratcher? 
    3. Are they slow to get up? 
    4. Have they stopped grooming certain areas (which may now be difficult or painful to reach)?
  2. Do they show signs or irritability or aggression?
    1. When touched, groomed or getting dressed for walkies?
  3. Do they seem less energetic?
    1. In dogs, this may be evidenced by appearing to tire quickly when walking, having less interest in play or just a general reduction in activity
    2. In cats it may be adopting easier to reach snoozing spots, less interest in play or hunting activities and even less interaction with their pet family…. 
  4. A change to their walking patterns, such as limping or showing a stiff gait?
  5. New behaviours have become apparent, such as:
    1. Starting to regularly lick a paw, joint or specific area
    2. Have altered their toileting habits
    3. Are spending more time either up or down stairs (so are avoiding the stairs..)
    4. Conversely, may have become more “needy” and desiring attention 
    5. Have become more vocal

Ok, this is far from a concise list as the reality is that the indicators and behaviour changes can take many forms for dogs and cats and can be influenced by a multitude of factors… However, the key point is being able to recognize signs in your pet and understand that if your pet has started doing something different, there may well be a physical reason, for which, underlying pain is a prime example.

Arthritis does not need to be a life sentence of pain, discomfort and debilitation. When identified and diagnosed it is treatable and the symptoms can be managed to provide a far more comfortable and enjoyable quality of life for all animals (including ourselves) and regular proactive, preemptive physical Vet checks can support a positive outcome.  

So if you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s mobility, energy, health or behaviour…, or if you want to book a check-up for peace of mind then please do get in touch today at 025562024 or info@germanvet.ae and help your pet avoid the impact of Arthritic afflictions.

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