What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common degenerative disease of the joints which is thought to affect up to 80% of dogs during their lifetime and as much as 90% of cats over the age of 12 years. It is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs. Pets diagnosed with OA commonly experience soft tissue pain. Because they are moving differently, limping or off-setting weight to another leg their muscles often become sore and tight. The resulting pain can sometimes cause more issues than the arthritic joint! Dogs will often express the pain associated with OA visually rather than verbally, so it is important to understand some common symptoms associated with OA.
- Change in behaviour – less tolerant of interactions with other dogs of humans
- Decreased exercise tolerance
- Changes in temperament
- Change in body profile – muscle loss
- Reluctance to be touched or groomed
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Stiff when getting up from a rest
- Licking at legs or joints
- Lameness – In the latter stages
Although OA cannot be cured it can be effectively managed through a multifactorial approach This means developing a treatment plan which takes lots of different things into consideration at the same time to slow down progression of the condition, promote a good quality of life and reduce levels of pain.
Osteoarthritis is a complex condition requiring a multifactorial approach. At StreetVet we are fortunate to have such a wealth of different skills within our volunteer pool, which helps us to effectively support pets diagnosed with this condition.
How does StreetVet manage dogs with osteoarthritis?
StreetVet have designed an osteoarthritis protocol for use by their volunteers, which helps in the identification of cases and in the effective implementation of suitable treatment plans.
Once a diagnosis of suspected arthritis is made, there are several things for the StreetVet teams to consider.
- Do we need to arrange for diagnostic tests such as x-rays to confirm the diagnosis?
- Will the patient benefit from starting on medication to reduce inflammation and levels of pain, and if so, do we need to take a blood sample to check the patient’s liver and kidney function?
- What is the body condition score, and do we need to consider a weight loss programme?
- Is the pet on a suitable diet or do we need to add any supplements to support joint health?
- Would this pet benefit from receiving complementary therapy e.g., physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, or acupuncture?
- Have we discussed a suitable exercise plan with the owner?
- Have we assessed the pet’s lifestyle? Would they benefit from a warm coat, a harness, or a supportive bed?