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Osteoarthritis is a chronic and progressive disorder of the joints that results in cartilage damage.  Dogs and cats can both be affected and can show a range of signs such as lameness, stiffness (particularly after rising), behavioural changes (cats especially can become more grumpy due to painful joints) and slowing down during walks.  Animals can be more prone to developing arthritis if there are born with joint deformities or if their breed shape puts extra stresses on joints as they grow.  Some developmental joint problems are hereditary. Other animals have a history of trauma or surgery and are then prone to developing problems later on.


During the winter, a lot of animals with arthritis can become stiff and uncomfortable and are more likely to need anti-inflammatory or other medications.  Damp weather can also make stiff joints worse.  Over time, animals with chronic problems can become constantly lame and lose function and muscle mass in the affected leg.  Sore legs and/or backs can also make going up and down stairs difficult.


The goals of treatment are to alleviate pain and to prevent further joint degeneration. 


Anti-inflammatory drugs are regularly used to reduce inflammation and pain but must be monitored if used long term as they can have negative effects on the intestinal system and kidneys.  The pentosan course of injections is commonly given to arthritic patients and can help improve the quality of the joint fluid and protect the cartilage surface. 


Other supportive treatments include extra pain relief medications and also oral joint supplements, which can be used to maintain healthy joints or support affected joints.  Arthritic patients do better if they have regular but gentle exercise rather than long walks just at the weekend.  Hydrotherapy can also be useful to build up muscle mass while easing pressure from the joints. 


Newer treatment options include stem cell therapy which involves collecting a sample of the patient’s own fat, processing the stem and regenerative cells from the fat sample and then injecting them into the affected joints.  This is an exciting new option which will hopefully benefit many arthritic animals in the future.   


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