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When arthritis has your knees creaking and your joints aching,
it can be a miserable time. Your pets may feel your pain as
Arthritis in pets can be just as agonizing as it is in humans,
and the disease and its effects are very similar in both pets and
people, says Dr. Sharon Kerwin, professor at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences who
specializes in orthopedic medicine.
Kerwin says animal arthritis attacks bones and joints much the
same way as the disease does in humans, but with one noticeable
exception - it can strike some animals, especially dogs, before
they become a 1-year-old.
"Any animal can get arthritis, but dogs and cats especially seem
to be prone to get the disease," Kerwin says. "It is not unusual
for a dog to have a check-up in its first year, and the
veterinarian can already detect signs of arthritis. It means
the owner will almost certainly have to make some adjustments in
the way the animal is cared for and the amount of exercise and
movement the dog gets."
Certain breeds are especially prone to get arthritis, and these
include the Rottweiler, golden retrievers, and Labrador
Kerwin says there are several signs pet owners may look for if
they suspect their animal might have arthritis.
"First is an obvious decrease in activity," she explains. "The
animal may not want to go as far as it used to on a walk. It
may not want to walk at all."
"In cats, it is sometimes a little harder to detect arthritis,
but the animal may appear to be less active and may have trouble
jumping on top of a chair or table."
Treatments can vary, depending on the severity of arthritis,
Surgery, she explains, is sometimes recommended, especially if a
hip or other joint is severely affected.
"Drugs are often prescribed, and 'joint diets' have also become
available for dogs and cats in recent years," Kerwin explains.
"Physical rehabilitation can be a very effective treatment in
controlling signs associated with arthritis."
As with humans, weather changes - especially colder weather -
can often be felt in bones and joints, and these changes can affect
your pet, Kerwin adds.
"Probably the most frequent question veterinarians get asked
about arthritis in pets is, 'Should I continue to exercise my
pet?' There's no easy answer," Kerwin believes.
"Low-impact exercise, like a walk, is better than no exercise at
all," Kerwin adds, "Swimming is an ideal exercise for dogs if
they will do it, and even cats can swim in a water treadmill.
That's why it's best to consult with a veterinarian to get the
treatment plans best suited for your pet. Pet arthritis is not a
death sentence for your animal, but owners need to be aware that
the animal cannot do certain things."
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