What is Osteoarthritis (OA)?

Osteoarthritis is a painful inflammatory condition of joints that is the result of damage to a joint due to an injury (e.g. fracture), developmental disorder (e.g. luxating patella, hip dysplasia), or chronic disease (e.g. cranial cruciate ligament disease/tear) that has a negative impact on joint stability and mechanics. The original cause leads to cartilage destruction and the release of molecules in the joint that interfere with the normal balance. The cells needed to repair the cartilage become unhappy and cause a breakdown of the protective matrix in the joint, leading to more damage and loss of these cells. A negative cycle develops where cartilage continues to be damaged and the cells to replace it are dying. This catabolic disorder affects more than just the joint where it originates. The pet, as a whole, becomes painful and therefore, less mobile and less active, leading to reduced muscle and cardiovascular strength and increased weight, which exacerbates the condition further. It also affects the family because they are no longer able to play go for walks or participate in many of the activities they used to share and enjoy together.

Important Facts about OA

  • OA is not just a disease of senior/geriatric animals. Dogs and cats of all ages can be affected by OA.
  • OA is not just a disease of large/giant breeds or obese animals. Small dogs, cats, and animals in good body condition can be affected, too. The main cause of OA is developmental.
  • OA can affect any purebred or mixed-breed dog.
  • OA and obesity are the number 1 cause of death in Labrador Retrievers.
  • OA affects at least 2 in 5 dogs or 40% of all dogs!
  • OA is the #1 cause of chronic pain in dogs. Restoration of mobility and quality of life requires a pain-free state.
  • One study showed 61% of cats over 6 years old and 82% of cats over 14 years old had OA.
  • Dogs and cats are very good at masking their pain and often will not appear to be in pain until they are in extreme pain.
  • The pain of OA is maladaptive, meaning that it serves no physiological purpose.
  • Chemical mediators released with OA decrease an animal’s pain threshold and even normal activities become painful.
  • AGE IS NOT A DISEASE. If you find yourself saying that your pet is “getting old”, he/she is likely in pain and should be taken to your vet for an assessment and/or referral to physiotherapy.
  • OA is a TREATABLE disease. Treatment of OA is MULTIMODAL, meaning that there is no single thing that will manage your pet’s pain and restore its quality of life. It requires a complete program that includes proper nutrition and supplements, weight management, pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical pain management, and activity modification.

Common Signs of OA Pain

  • Isolation, less interested in family activities or interacting with their people
  • Hiding (cats, often)
  • Restlessness at night, inability to settle or get comfortable
  • Lagging on walks
  • Slow to rise
  • Hesitation to climb or jump, not able to jump as high, or missing their target
  • Stiffness
  • Missing the litterbox or intentionally going outside of it
  • Changes in posture (e.g. crooked sit, not lifting leg to urinate)

NOTE: If you answer yes to any one item, your pet could have OA.

How Can NCCC Help?

Whether your beloved pet is a dog or a cat, we would love to work with you and your vet to restore your pet’s happiness, help it live its best life, and get you back to enjoying things together. We will assess your pet’s entire body to determine where all its issues are. Many animals with one painful joint will have others, or they may have back pain from compensating for a sore limb or other sore muscles from protecting a sore joint. We will assess their body condition to determine if weight loss is needed and develop a feeding plan, if necessary. Once we have identified all of your pet’s needs, we will create a therapeutic plan that includes non-pharmaceutical modalities for pain management, diet and supplement recommendations, and an individualized exercise program to help improve your pet’s mobility safely. At the Centre, we have many treatment options available including LASER, acupuncture, massage, and hydrotherapy, among others. For our senior arthritic dogs and cats, we have a special Senior Care Program that uses the LASER to stimulate acupuncture points for pain relief, improving mobility, and improving general well-being. If you are concerned about your pet’s quality of life, contact us today for more information about our programs or to schedule an appointment.

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