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Is your older pet slowing down? They might be showing signs of arthritis

Arthritis is the painful and progressive inflammation of the joints. Cartilage in the joint deteriorates so that the cushioning that once protected the joint is no longer able to do its job. Joints most affected are those that work the hardest – the knees, elbows, shoulders and hip joints. Arthritis may also be called degenerative joint disease, degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis.

What breeds are affected?

Arthritis can affect any breed or age of dog or cat. It can occur as pets become older or when there has been a past injury. Underlying problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia also cause arthritis. It also develops with natural wear and tear on the joints with age.

Arthritis is a common problem in both dogs and cats. In some studies, up to 60% of dogs and 90% cats were found to have visible arthritis when X-rayed1.  

According to PetSure data, Arthritis is most prevalent in the following breeds:

BreedPrevalence
Collie5.62%
Dogue De Bordeaux4.05%
Alaskan Malamute4.05%
Golden Retriever3.88%
Shetland Sheepdog3.86%
Labrador3.83%
Great Dane3.73%
Labrador Retriever3.49%
Bernese Mountain Dog3.42%
Samoyed3.36%

PetSure data from last 12 months to 8 May 2020.

Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of Arthritis

Arthritis in dogs may present as lameness or limping on an affected limb/s. Stiffness may also occur on rising. Some dogs may become stiff or lame after exercise. Our feline friends can be harder to read. Some cats may become irritable (or more irritable in some cases!), have issues going to the toilet, or become generally less active. Reluctance to jump or head up and down stairs may be a sign your dog or cat is suffering from arthritis. In some cases, you may be able to see swelling on your pet’s legs which may be arthritis.

Diagnosing Arthritis

Your Veterinarian may diagnose arthritis through history taking, examination and palpation (feeling) your pets’ joints for signs of crepitus (crackling feeling or sound in the joints). Radiographs (X-rays) and other imaging such as CT (or CAT scan) may also be recommended by your Veterinarian to diagnose arthritis.

Managing Arthritis

Delaying the onset and severity of arthritis in pets is an important goal. Keeping pets fit with regular exercise helps maintain muscle mass and prevent obesity. Excess weight puts extra strain on bones and joints and exacerbates arthritis.  

Unfortunately, arthritis is not curable and as anyone with arthritis would attest, it is a painful disease. Pain management is very important in keeping arthritic pets happy. Always consult your vet who will be able to recommend the best course of treatment for your best friend.

Activity is still important in pets with arthritis. Choose low-impact exercise, such as swimming for dogs. As arthritis is such a common condition, your vet will have considerable experience in managing arthritis and will be able to formulate a comprehensive multimodal treatment plan for your pet.  There may even be certain situations where your vet may recommend surgery, such as for cruciate ligament disease, hip or elbow dysplasia.

As arthritis needs long term management, regular vet check-ups are necessary. Your vet will help you and your pet find a plan to manage your pet’s arthritis. If you are concerned that your pet may be suffering from arthritis, or would like to discuss arthritis further, reach out to your vet for advice.

Is Arthritis covered by pet insurance?

Arthritis is generally covered by comprehensive accidental injury and illness pet insurance policies administered by PetSure (check our brand partners at petsure.com.au/partners), unless related to a pre-existing condition or exclusion. Refer to your policy documents and Product Disclosure Statement for more information.

References

https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=8896028 “Arthritis in Dogs and Cats: What Can be Done?” Published: 01 April 2019 Accessed 06 May 2020

Any advice is general only and has not considered your personal circumstances, so may not be right for you. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider to decide if a product is right for you. Insurance products are issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd (ABN 78 090 584 473; AFSL 241436) and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd (ABN 95 075 949 923; AFSL 420183) through our Authorised Representatives and our distribution partners.