Apparently this is a very common disease in cats and dogs.
We all know some older dogs with joint and mobility problems but we are often unaware of the full extent of osteoarthritis in our pets.
I attended a webinar last week by an experienced Veterinarian in Belgium who makes her business researching and treating this condition.
I was quite surprised that her studies reveal that up to 60% of cats over ten years of age present with symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA) and a higher number of dogs.
The webinar was well presented and informative and a timely reminder of many aspects of this disease that need to be considered in formulating a treatment plan.
The disease arises with wear and tear on joints and the erosion of the cartilage and shock absorbing capacity of the joints.  Age and injury are factors but so too is obesity or load bearing and loss of lean muscle mass from reduced activity.

Indoor cats and dogs that are carried everywhere will also be at risk of joint degeneration through lack of use as much as some animals who are  traumatising their joints with extreme activity. The key to healthy function is moderation; principally, moderation in food intake and exercise.

The earliest symptoms of OA in cats include reduced mobility, less tendency to jump or difficulty grooming. Dogs will present with lameness and reduced mobility, disinclination to jump and play and difficulty rising from the resting position. In severe cases the animals can present in severe pain with fever and inappetance.
An interesting point was made that the vicious pain cycle of OA needs to be arrested before it becomes intractable and, as one who opts for natural therapies over conventional medicines, it was another prompt to re-evaluate the pain relief that I offer my patients. In recent times there have been many advances in the understanding and manufacture of pain relief medicines. With the selective targeting that can now be built in to these medicines they have become safer than products of old. It is perfectly reasonable to use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications for the management of acute pain to break the pain cycle.
These products are still however not entirely without risks and most of my clients are looking for herbal or homeopathic alternatives for the management of chronic conditions. I have spent the better part of this week evaluating the pain relief I offer in my practice and am satisfied, in most circumstances, that it can be achieved adequately with Bowen, Acupuncture, Homeopathy and Herbs like Boswellia and Curcumin. There are specific molecular pathways of inflammation that need to be arrested in order to break the pain cycle and bring about healing. It can be difficult to find the most appropriate form of therapy from the myriad options available and each case must be assessed on its own merits and individual responses. There are animals that do not respond to conventional pain relief.

One point that I find it difficult to completely agree upon is that the disease can only be managed and not cured. Whilst this is a reasonable opinion and it may be true that chondrocytes (cartilage cells) have limited capacity to regenerate, I believe that cure is the restoration of function and health and the removal of the symptoms in their entirety. I also believe this is not an impossibility in cats and dogs depending on the severity of their initial disease.

The joints of the body need nourishment and hydration to maintain optimal function. I am sure that animals fed raw natural diets are at a lower risk of degenerative diseases and one of the mainstays of therapy of OA is the addition of fish oils and supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin which is naturally found in cartilage, like raw chicken meaty bone diets.
It is also true that removing grains from the diets of these animals will, in many cases, significantly improve their joint function.
I have recently begun experimenting with New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel extract as a nutritional supplement for treating OA in cats and dogs. It is a nutrient dense joint food that reduces inflammation and improves joint health by repairing and replenishing joint cartilage.

Fish oil is a natural pain relief and organ support through the provision of essential omega3 fatty acids. The triglyceride form is also preferable to esters as the animal is more likely to recognise and utilise this form over the ester.

There are issues of heavy metal levels and other toxins as well as ethical oil production that are important factors for many of us to consider in choosing the right fish oil product.

The webinar presentation highlighted the need to manage each case on its individual merits but the overwhelming issues are universal; weight loss if obese, nutritional support, pain relief and exercise. These can all be achieved simultaneously by feeding animals raw food diets.

It is difficult to find a happy fat dog or cat as they are often quite uncomfortable.

The fatter they become, the more cranky they get. Apart from the obvious strain this places on their heart and body function, fat cells (adipocytes) release inflammatory mediators, which contribute significantly to the level of discomfort these animals experience.
There is an advantage to lean muscle maintenance through exercise and natural diets in preserving joint function. A weight loss program must be factored into every plan of management of OA, plus an exercise program that can include physiotherapy or hydrotherapy.

Many people get upset when I mention the term ‘arthritis’ because many of us know how debilitating this disease can become. We don’t like to think that our dear pets have to suffer the same fate and perhaps we feel responsible. The fact is that there are very few diseases that animals do not get these days as a result of them living in our environment and being exposed to the same influences. If we can remember that they have some separate needs from us, raw meaty bone diets and adequate exercise, fresh air and sunshine, they could have a fighting chance to avoid some of our modern day, human health challenges.
They are built to live rough and eat lean.

We may well be killing them with kindness!

One Response to “Osteoarthritis”

  1. From Wesley Nommay

    good site!! You could start many more. I love all the info provided. I will stay tuned.

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