Is Obesity the Cause of Arthritis in Your Pet?

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Arthritis is one of the most common ailments affecting pets across the United States, especially older cats and dogs. Just as it is in people, the main contributor to arthritis in pets is the excess weight that put stress on their joints. More than 50 percent of the cats and dogs in the country are obese according to a recent survey. That is close to a 100 million pets that are at risk for high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.

Signs of arthritis in your pet

Arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, occurs when the joints are unstable. The bones start to move abnormally due to the instability โ€“ first they rub against the cartilage and when that erodes, bone starts rubbing against bone. It eventually leads to chronic inflammation which is very painful.The most visible sign of the joint disease is when your cat or dog starts to limp. However, that is not the only sign โ€“ you dog might not be able to charge up the stairs like he/she used to, and your cat might start to defecate or urinate outside their litter box when it is painful for them to jump inside. Thankfully, research has shown us that maintaining a healthy body weight can prevent the condition from developing, even in breeds that are predisposed to the ailment.

How to combat it?

The two most important factors when it comes to combating and preventing obesity are diet and exercise. Talk to your animal's veterinarian about the appropriate diet and exercise regime for your cat. He/she will recommend a regimen that suits the life stage and lifestyle of your pet. Pets that are heavy enough already must begin by exercising moderately while reducing the caloric intake. If you have a cat that likes to lounge on the couch most of the time, add some interactive play toys to its environment. Adopt a playful and friendly cat from your neighborhood shelter so that your cat has someone to play with.An ideal way to achieve the change is to put your pet on a weight loss diet. These are specially formulated to provide appropriate caloric and nutrient levels for your pet. Feeding smaller portions of your pet's regular diet just won't cut it. Some of the weight loss diets are formulated to manage the inflammation in the joints to help combat the pain they experience during play and exercise.combating and preventing arthritis and obesity in your pet is not that difficult, but it takes some effort and the advice of experts. speak to your veterinarian if you notice any of the aforementioned signs in your pet or if you feel that your pet is not maintaining a healthy weight level. href>weight loss diets are formulated to manage the inflammation in the joints to help combat the pain they experience during play and exercise.combating and preventing arthritis and obesity in your pet is not that difficult, but it takes some effort and the advice of experts. speak to your veterinarian if you notice any of the aforementioned signs in your pet or if you feel that your pet is not maintaining a healthy weight level.

Is Your Cat Suffering From Arthritis?

Arthritis is one of the most highly prevalent ailments in senior cats. It causes changes to their joints that can be quite painful. The pain is the primary reason for most of the signs associated with the condition. Here are some of the most common signs:

  1. Limping โ€“ You might begin to notice your cat limping or favoring one leg over another, depending on which of his joints is arthritic. In certain cases, the limp might seem far worse when your pet rises and becomes less conspicuous as he begins to move around.
  2. Difficulty moving โ€“ Your cat might become reluctant to do some things that were previously much easier for him to accomplish. For example, your cat might find it much more difficult to go up and down the stairs. He will also stop jumping onto the perches, countertops and other high areas because of the discomfort and pain.
  3. Spinal issues โ€“ Arthritic changes affect not only the joints in the legs but also parts of your catโ€™s spine. These changes lead to a sore neck, an abnormally hunched posture, or lameness in the hind legs.
  4. Tiredness โ€“ Your cat will get tired more easily. This means that his walks will become shorter and more painful. He will spend most of his time resting or sleeping.
  5. Irritability โ€“ Arthritic animals are more irritable. They tend to bite or snap when they are handled or approached, particularly if the handling or petting takes place in a way that adds to their pain.
  6. Muscular atrophy โ€“ Since arthritic cats do not move around much, they often end up developing muscular atrophy due to inactivity and a decrease in the use of their muscles. If the muscles in your petโ€™s legs are atrophied, they will look much thinner than a normal leg.
  7. Chewing, licking and biting โ€“ Pets that are affected by arthritis tend to chew, lick at or bite at body parts that are painful. In certain cases, it leads to hair loss and inflamed skin over the affected areas.

Treatment options

Though arthritis cannot be completely cured, there are a number of procedures and remedies that can help ease your petโ€™s pain. Consult with the vet for advice if you believe that your cat is suffering from arthritis. Arthritis can be particularly hard to spot in cats. In most cases, the only sign of the condition is a marked drop in activity levels. Often, this behavioral change corresponds to aging and most pet owners tend to think that this change is normal when, in reality, they decrease their activity level because of arthritic pain. If obesity is the cause of arthritis in your cat, your pet will be able to recommend a specially formulated diet plan to deal with the problem.

How to Diagnose and Treat Osteoarthritis in Your Dog

One of the main problems with osteoarthritis (OA for short), is that it limits how active your dog can be. If your dog has OA, it wonโ€™t be able to exercise as much (or even perform basic movements), which can lead to other health issues. Lameness and lack of mobility are the two main symptoms, but there are several other ways that a dog can be affected by OA.

If youโ€™re wondering whether or not your dog has DJD, or how to manage its DJD (if it does have it), weโ€™ve created this expertly researched guide to help dissect all of the helpful (yet sometimes conflicting) information on the web. Symptoms, tell-tale signs, and treatment/management options are all covered below.

The Details Behind Degenerative Joint Disease

Two types of arthritis can appear in dogs: degenerative and developmental. As the terms imply, degenerative is when a dogโ€™s joints degenerate over time due to age, activity, etc. Whereas developmental arthritis is when a dog is born with a genetic predisposition for joint problems, or their joints just otherwise donโ€™t develop normally.

From a clinical point of view, DJD is when a certain part of a dogโ€™s joints deteriorates to such a point where the limb cannot be normally used. The large majority of dogs will develop arthritis over the course of their lives (especially now that veterinary care has advanced to the point where dogs are living longer than ever before). Below is a list of details regarding the specific mechanism behind arthritis, and what actually happens to your dogโ€™s body during the development of DJD:

  • The part that deteriorates is called articular cartilage, and is what separates the end of bones from coming into contact with each other.
  • With DJD, the articular cartilage in your dogโ€™s joints slowly erodes over time (from physical activity, age, genetics, etc.), until eventually there is so little material left that the cartilage has the potential to fall off the bone.
  • This is why DJD can be so painful for your dog (because its bones are essentially rubbing against each other with virtually zero support).

How to Tell if Your Dog has Osteoarthritis

The tell-tale sign of DJD is lameness in one (or more) of your dogโ€™s limbs. Beyond lameness though, several other symptoms are common in dogs with DJD. If you notice any of the following symptoms, itโ€™s possible that your dog might have arthritis (and itโ€™s recommended to schedule an appointment with your vet):

  • If theyโ€™re sitting or laying with their back legs behind them (stretched).
  • Inability or aversion to performing movements that require effort (e.g. jumping onto or off of furniture).
  • Moving with their head lower than normal (or their tail).
  • Not being able to get up from a lying position as fast as they usually do.
  • An increase in having โ€œaccidentsโ€ inside the house, or not being able to sit while performing bowel movements (e.g. walking instead).
  • Noticeable increase in lethargy and/or laziness (as opposed to their normal activity levels).
  • Sleeping for longer than normal, or taking an abnormal number of naps during the day.

Tips for Preventing Degenerative Joint Disease in Your Dog

Unfortunately, most of the dogs that come to veterinary clinics (and are subsequently diagnosed with DJD) suffer from obesity or are otherwise overweight. Therefore, one of the very best ways to prevent DJD in your dog is to make sure that their weight is maintained at a healthy level. Managing your dogโ€™s diet is essential for keeping it at a healthy weight.

Additionally, the possibility of DJD occurring in your dog can be minimized by ensuring they receive an adequate amount of exercise. Strong muscles and bones result in strong joints, which is why exercise is essential to supporting (and building) your dogโ€™s health.

Treating and Managing DJD

Tissue that degenerates within the body is usually unable to be regenerated, and this rings true for the cartilage thatโ€™s lost from DJD. So, treatment for DJD (especially advanced DJD) typically revolves around managing your dogโ€™s pain levels, and trying to make them as comfortable as possible.

There are several different specific treatment options that a vet can prescribe your dog. The specific treatment plan for your dog will depend on their medical history, age, breed, activity level, and level of DJD. The most common types are listed below:

  • NSAIDs for dealing with inflammation and minor/moderate pain.  
  • Gabapentin for pain management and associated issues.
  • Tramadol for additional pain management.
  • Amantadine is used in conjunction with other pain medications for enhanced pain control.
  • Oral supplements featuring a blend of ingredients designed to improve your dogโ€™s joint health (e.g. Dasuquin Joint Health Supplement for dogs).
  • Various dietary supplements such as glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids, and chondroitin.

As the last bullet point states, dietary-based treatments have become popular over the past decade. Owners are utilizing supplements such as those mentioned above, in addition to special dog food recipes (formulated for joint-related problems) to help manage their dogโ€™s pain from DJD.

NSAIDs coupled with other pain medications (as well as Amantadine) are what most vets start with. Depending on how advanced your dogโ€™s DJD is, the vet may recommend just one prescription (or several all at once), it really comes down to how long the DJD has been developing in your dog.

Unfortunately, the early warning signs for DJD can be very difficult to identify (even for vets), so by the time the owner realizes something might be wrong with their dogโ€™s joints, the DJD has already progressed to a level that makes it difficult to fully heal. Pain management is the main strategy behind most OA treatment plans.

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