Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder of the cartilage that causes chronic inflammation and pain. We see signs of it more often in older dogs and cats, but we can also see it in younger patients who are overweight, who suffer from a congenital deformity (hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, luxated patella) or who have suffered an injury causing joint instability (ruptured cranial cruciate ligament for example).
The pain caused by osteoarthritis is not always manifested by an obvious limp, very often the symptoms are more subtle. Your dog may be more hesitant to go up and down stairs, or is less excited for his or her walks, or is very stiff whenever he or she gets up from a long nap. For cats, they may have more trouble getting up on the windowsill, or they may stop using the litter box that is all the way downstairs.
Although osteoarthritis is often a condition that comes naturally with age, it is important to note that it causes pain and inflammation and that this pain is treatable, and not just something we accept with age.
There are many different ways to treat osteoarthritis, depending on how severe it is. The therapy can range from weight loss, to oral or injectable chondroprotectants to anti-inflammatory and pain medication. We recommend that you consult a veterinarian to firstly make sure that the problem is osteoarthritis and then to discuss the best way to render your pet the most comfortable he or she can be.
Dr. T. Sweet, veterinarian