Osteoarthritis (arthritis) is a very common condition, affecting over 80% of older cats and dogs. It causes painful, irreversible destruction of the cartilage within the joints. This ultimately leads to reduced use of the joint, wastage of the surrounding muscle, lameness and chronic pain.
Despite this, less than 60% of animals with arthritis will ever be treated! Many owners are unaware of their animal’s suffering. Animals in chronic pain will still eat and still walk and almost never yelp; but they may be slower, stiffer to get up, more reluctant to jump, and lick their sore joints. Cats often stop grooming (thus dandruff is one of the first signs of arthritis).
Other owners notice their animal getting stiff, but assume it is an unavoidable part of ageing. In clinics, owners often report “He has started slowing down and limping on his walk, but he’s not in pain”. This misconception comes from the fact that animals in chronic pain rarely yelp when you touch/manipulate their leg (like they would with acute pain such as a cut or fracture). They just process chronic pain differently.
The good news is lots that can be done to help arthritis. In the early stages (often noticed in the clinic when vet feel the destruction in the joint, or notices abnormal muscle wastage) cartilage protection can slow down the destruction. Adjustments in exercise, diet and even physio/hydrotherapy can also be extremely helpful. In the later stages, pain relief is also absolutely vital. This can take the form of daily tablets, or long acting injections. Speak to your vet if you are concerned you pet may be suffering with arthritis, and see what options may be available to help them.