For most animal owners the idea of their furry companion developing a disease such as osteoarthritis seems unlikely; that is until it happens. This potentially disabling condition is the number one type of joint disease in cats, dogs, and horse. It also occurs in almost all other animals with a backbone, including fish, amphibians, and birds. In this informational article titled osteoarthritis and animals we will be focusing on the defining the condition along with a few simple ideas that could be helpful in reversing its impact.
Osteoarthritis in past years was simply called degenerative joint disease. It is a chronic condition affecting joint cartilage and surrounding tissue that is recognized by pain, stiffness, and in extreme cases immobility.
While this osteoarthritis is primarily seen in older animals, it is not caused primarily by the wear and tear that occurs with years of use. Instead, microscopic changes in the makeup of the cartilage (structure and composition) appear to be the culprit.
When an animal walks or runs they have an amazing ability to make it look easy. Their amazing mobility is enhanced by joints which have a very low friction level that will protect their joints from wearing out, even after years of use. Current research suggests that osteoarthritis in animals begins with an abnormality of the cells that synthesize the components of cartilage such as collagen (a durable, fibrous protein) and proteoglycans (substances that provide resilience). Once the process has begun the next step is likely swelling due to water retention. As the process continues cartilage becomes soft, and then develops cracks on the surface. Tiny cavities form in the bone beneath the cartilage, weakening the bone. Bone growth may then become irregular, producing sharp edges and bumps. The result is that the once smooth surface that allowed your animal to move so gracefully becomes rough and pitted, so much so that the joint can no longer move smoothly and absorb impact producing pain and immobility.
Osteoarthritis in animals is incurable, but there are a number of steps you can take to improve their quality of life. The different size and shape of animals makes universal treatment ideas few and far between but nevertheless let’s explore a few of these.
*Provide a warm place for them to sleep and rest: Often times joints will stiffen up during a nap or overnight.
*Weight management: Not only is excess weight one of the major contributing factors in the onset of osteoarthritis in animals it also plays a major role in its progression.
*Water therapy: This is not for all animals but if you can use water to take the stress off of the impacted joints during joint therapy it could be beneficial.
*Sensible exercise: Sensible exercise is essential in maintaining muscle mass and preserving the remaining joint flexibility.
Additionally , there are a number of excellent bone and joint supplements formulated specifically to restore cartilage health in animals. If your furry companion is struggling with joint mobility supplementation is worth considering.