What is Osteoarthritis?
It is a degenerative joint disease caused by the deterioration of joint cartilage. Osteoarthritis is very common and is often referred to as ‘old age osteoarthritis’. The cartilage layer and synovial fluid in joints acts as cushion and lubrication, providing shock absorption and easy mobility of joints. Without these properties joints become stiff and ridged, which makes mobility very uncomfortable and painful. Osteoarthritis can be seen in both dogs and cats, more commonly in dogs.
What causes Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is known to come with age from general wear and tear, although other factors such as injury, congenital defects, genetics (breed), immune disease and obesity can play a part.
There are many symptoms associated with Osteoarthritis. In dogs it may be easier to notice symptoms than it is in cats. Cats are quite stoic creatures and are great at hiding any signs of pain.
- Difficultly moving around and climbing stairs
- Obvious stiffness
- Reluctant to play and less active
- Behavioural changes (aggression & irritability)
- Painful when getting up and down
- Muscle loss & swollen joints
- Persistent licking of affected joints
- Change in appetite
Treatment of Osteoarthritis
Unfortunately there is no cure for Osteoarthritis, however there are ways to manage the discomfort and to help your pet enjoy life again. The first step to take is to visit your veterinarian. They will accurately diagnose your pet’s condition and severity. From there the veterinarian will help you with a management plan that best suits you and your pet.
Weight management and Exercise
Overweight pets are at a high risk of Osteoarthritis. The excess weight increases stress on their joints causing a quicker progression of the disease.
Regular exercise is very important for your pets to maintain a healthy weight. Some forms of exercise like throwing the tennis ball or running up stairs can have a negative impact on joints. The twisting and jolting can increase the wear and tear on cartilage. Try not to do too much of this with your pets.
There are diets that are specifically designed for weight loss and joint support. A home cooked diet is not a balanced meal and you cannot guarantee your pet will lose weight. The Hills R/d diet is clinically proven to help your pet lose weight. This diet is high in fibre, creating a feeling of fullness and avoid hunger. With regular exercise, your pet will lose weight on this diet, provided that you cut out the treats and extra snacks.
The Hills J/d diet is highly recommened for those pets that are not overweight but instead require joint support. This diet is clinically proven to ease achy joints and preserve healthy cartilage. It contains ingredients such as omega- 3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA), chondroitin sulphate, glucosamine, green-lipped mussel and supportive minerals and vitamins.
Synovan injections are a course of injections that help stabilise the joints, reduce inflammation, aid in cartilage repair and increase joint lubrication. These injections have shown significant improvement in our arthritis patients with many returning for the course of injections each year.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also be given but only prescribed by a Veterinarian after a thorough examination. These medications can have a negative impact on the function of the liver and kidneys, as a result regular bloods tests are required to monitor these organs.
Little changes can be made at home to make your pets environment more comfortable. This may include softer bedding for sore joints, or placing a ramp in the back garden so your pet can avoid the stairs.
If your dog or cat is possibly suffering from the early stages of Osteoarthritis be sure to address it early and make an appointment to see one of our Veterinarians. It may save a lot of hassle and finances in the future!
Cruciate Ligament Rupture
What is the cruciate ligament?
The cruciate ligaments are connective fibrous tissues that connect the femur and tibia. The cranial cruciate ligament helps stabilise the knee joint. A cruciate rupture can occur from a traumatic injury such as a twisting action of the knee joint. It may also occur as a result of cruciate ligament disease.
The ligament becomes slightly damaged either from over stretching or a partial tear. Over time inflammation and arthritis occur. The degeneration of the joint causes the cruciate ligament to wear and eventually give way. It is far more common to see a cruciate rupture in dogs than cats.
What are the signs of cruciate ligament rupture?
- Lameness, in one or both hind legs
- Swelling around knee joint
- Reluctance to exercise or play
- Limping worsens with exercise
- Stiffness when getting up from sitting
- Painful to touch around the knee joint
Diagnosis of a cruciate rupture
The first steps your veterinarian will take to diagnose a cruciate rupture is a full examination and review of their history. The veterinarian will then perform a particular manipulation on the knee that is called a cranial draw test. This will indicate the degree of looseness in the knee which tells us about the cruciate ligament. X-rays are sometimes used to confirm the cruciate rupture. Partial ruptures can be more difficult to diagnose and this may be where x-rays are used.
For all patients, surgery always needs to be considered the best treatment for cruciate ligament rupture, and will maximise the long term use of the leg and minimise the extent of secondary osteoarthritis. There are a number of surgical techniques available and the best one for your dog depends on a range of factors.
Sometimes smaller dogs with a cruciate rupture can improve without surgery. This may be possible because of the reduced load bearing and impact in a smaller dog. The veterinarian will still recommend at least 6 weeks cage rest. Larger dogs who do not undergo surgery suffer ongoing pain and without surgery the knee will not improve. The surgery will slow the progression of degenerative joint disorder and create stability for the knee joint so your dog can enjoy exercise pain free!
The recovery period after surgery takes up to 6-8 weeks. Strict rest and minimal activity for this period will give the best chance of a full recovery. Changing their diet can also help, ideally a diet that focuses on mobility health such as the Hills J/d diet, which includes beneficial ingredients such as omega 3 fatty acids (fish oils), EPA’s and DHA’s, glucosamine and chondroitin. All of which are clinically proven to ease aching joints, preserve healthy cartilage to help dog’s walk, run and play more easily.
Those dogs that are overweight should go onto a weight loss diet that also has the added mobility ingredients. The Hills R/d diet weight loss diet is an ideal solution for this. It is a low calorie, high fibre diet that is clinically proven for weight loss and to reduce the formation of fat and cholesterol.
When dogs have undergone a cruciate repair surgery we also include a 4 week course of Synovan® injections. These injections help improve cartilage repair, reduce inflammation, and increase joint lubrication. These injections allow significant improvement with those dogs that have the potential to develop arthritis and those who already suffer from it.
What to do now?
If you have a dog suffering from lameness or even intermittent stiffness after rest, book an appointment with your veterinarian sooner rather than later to ensure your pet is examined and any potential problems can be managed in the best way possible.
What is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip Dysplasia is where the hip joint does not develop correctly and this causes a loose hip confirmation. It is the most common joint disorder seen in dogs. Because of this loose hip confirmation the hip joint moves around to much causing pain and discomfort. The pain is associated with wear and tear, which develops into osteoarthritis of the hip joint.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia is diagnosed through physical examinations and radiographs. The PennHIP method is a series of radiographs used to evaluate the integrity of the hip joint. These radiographs can be performed on dogs as young as 16 weeks of age.
The PennHIP method
This method incorporates a series of radiographs (x-rays) to measure a dog’s hip joint laxity (degree of looseness). These x-rays then help veterinarian determine the possibility of hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis. This then assists the veterinarian to determine the best course of prevention or treatment for your dog.
Dogs between the ages of 16 weeks and 21 weeks can undergo a procedure called Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS), which is a preventative surgery for hip dysplasia. Although we do not perform this surgery here it is important to understand it and know it’s available, especially if you purchase a puppy that could possibly develop the disease.
We always recommend researching the breed of dog you are looking to buy so you understand the possible diseases they could be faced with. Many pet owners that have large older dogs wish they understood hip dysplasia better so they could have taken preventative measures early in their dog’s life.
Can all dogs develop hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia can be seen in all breeds of dogs but more commonly in larger dogs. Larger breeds include Bulldogs, Labradors, Great Dane, Golden Retrievers, German shepherd’s and Rottweiler’s. Large breed cats can also develop hip dysplasia these include the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest Cats.
Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia
- Difficulty to rise from lying down
- Decreased activity levels
- Lameness in the hind legs
- Pain on touch
- Hind legs are not in coordination with the front legs
If your suspect hip dysplasia in your dog
- Seek veterinary assistance so you can implement changes to their lifestyle and diet to slow the progression of osteoarthritis of the hip joint.
- If you have just bought a puppy that you suspect could develop the condition, seek veterinary treatment early ideally before 16 weeks of age.
Medial Luxating Patella
Have you noticed a small ‘Skip’ in your dogs step?
The medial luxating patella is an extremely common problem in small breed dogs. It is when the kneecap (patella) slips out of the groove where it normally sits. It slips medially towards the opposite leg. A luxating patella can be recognised with a small skip or the dog runs on three legs, holding one leg up.
The knee cannot extend properly when the patella is dislocated (luxated).Normally within a few steps the kneecap slips back into its groove but for some dogs correcting the kneecaps position can only be achieved surgically.
Approximately 50% of dogs have both knees involved and 50% of dogs have just the one knee involved
Determining whether which dogs need correction is graded according to the severity of the luxation.
Grade 1(least severe)
The kneecap can be moved out of place but easily repositioned by letting go.
The kneecap is easily moved out of place but does not move back into its original position manually. Arthritis is likely to develop and surgery should then be considered to prevent conformational damage.
The patella is out of place all the time and will not stay in place even when manipulated back.
The patella is out of place all the time and cannot be manipulated back at any time. The dog will show extreme difficultly extending his/her knees and walking is certainly not easy!
The overall stress on the hind legs when the patella is out of place leads to changes in the hips, long bones and arthritis.
If you notice your dog doing a little ‘skip’ every now and then please come and have them checked out by one of our Veterinarians. If we can treat the luxating patella early we can prevent it from worsening and causing further problems.
Wobbler Syndrome (Cervical Spondylomyeopathy)
Cervical Spondylomyeopathy (CSM) also known as wobbler syndrome is a disease that affects the cervical spine (neck region) that is commonly seen in larger breed dogs. The disease causes the compression of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots affecting the transmission of nerve signals between the brain and the body. The disease is often referred to as wobbler syndrome as dogs affected will be seen to have a wobbly gait (walk).
How does it happen?
This disease begins because there is an instability between two or more vertebrae in the lower part of the neck. When instability exists, the body attempts to correct the problem. This results in a thickening of the ligaments that are within the joint; one is above the spinal cord and two are below it. As these ligaments thicken, they put pressure on the spinal cord.
The spinal cord is much like a large telephone cable that contains thousands of wires, each carrying important messages. When the telephone cable is crushed, the tiny wires within are broken so they cannot transmit information. A similar event occurs when the spinal cord is compressed by the thickened ligaments. They are unable to carry messages from the brain to the nerves in the legs, so the legs cannot move as they should.
My dog is paralysed in all four legs. Is this part of this disease?
Yes. The pressure on the spinal cord from the thickened ligaments causes the dog to walk in a very uncoordinated fashion. However, another event often follows. The instability present between the vertebrae also puts unnatural stress on the disc that is located between the bones. After weeks or months of stress, the disc will rupture. When this happens, the pressure on the spinal cord is so great that paralysis occurs. This may involve only the front legs or, in other cases, all four legs.
Are certain breeds of dogs more commonly affected than others?
Yes. Great Danes, Dobermans and Basset Hounds are commonly affected breeds, but any large breed is at risk for this disorder. Great Danes are usually affected when they are young, about 1-3 years of age. Dobermans and other breeds are typically 6-9 years of age when the symptoms begin.
How is the diagnosis made?
Radiographs (x-rays) of the neck often reveal that the cervical vertebrae are not properly aligned. If the dog is one of the prone breeds, and the symptoms are correct, this provides strong evidence of the wobbler syndrome. However, plain radiographs do not show the spinal cord so the presence of pressure on it cannot be proven in this manner. A myelogram is a radiograph made after a special contrast material (dye) is injected around the spinal cord. The dye outlines the cord so that points of pressure can be readily observed. A myelogram is needed to give conclusive evidence of the wobbler syndrome. It requires general anaesthesia and a special technique.
What is the treatment?
Anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers are often prescribed in the early stages of this disease. They may provide some relief from the symptoms, but this improvement is usually only temporary. As the disease progresses, medication will no longer be helpful. Special precautions must be taken when pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications are given to Dobermans as there is a high incidence of inherited bleeding disorders in this breed; some medications may precipitate a bleeding crisis.
In some dogs, a specially-fashioned neck brace can be helpful in limiting motion in the neck. This can be helpful in some dogs, especially dogs for which surgery is not feasible. However, most dogs have progressive disease and are helped best with prompt surgery.
Successful treatment requires that the pressure be removed from the spinal cord. There are several surgical procedures that have been used, but none have been successful in all cases. The findings on the myelogram are used to determine the surgical procedure that is most likely to be helpful.
What is involved with after care?
The degree of after care will depend on the dog’s progress at the time it goes home. If it can walk, but uncoordinated, it will need assistance so that a fall does not occur. If it is still paralysed at the time of discharge, the amount of after care can be considerable because of the dog’s weight. If you are not able to lift your dog and you do not have someone else who can help you do so, you should discuss this situation further with your veterinary surgeon since protracted hospitalisation can easily cost more than the operation.
What is the prognosis?
If surgery is performed at the time the dog is uncoordinated, there is a fairly good chance of success. If paralysis of all four legs has occurred, the success rate is less.
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Joint problems mainly occur in dogs, but some large breads of cats may also suffer. This article explores the causes, diagnosis and treatment of osteoarthritis, cruciate ligament rupture, hip dysplasia and medial luxating patella in pets.