The answer is: it must be multi-modal!
This is because there are so many different factors that effect the severity of pain felt by cats and dogs with osteoarthritis. First, if there is a medical issue that’s contributing to the arthritis it’s crucial to address it; we need to make certain that any contributing factors are being managed/treated as best as
Second, arthritis causes inflammation, and therefore pain, in the joint. This is why medications and supplements that reduce inflammation are the cornerstone of pain management. However, as osteoarthritis progresses and worsens, we frequently need to add in additional medication types in order to manage the pain.
Third, we need to address the environment because things like slipping or impacts from jumping can worsen arthritis pain. As part of the environmental modifications, we also need to address the beds that our pets sleep on because pressure points can worsen pain while also decreasing sleep quality.
Lastly, we need to be working on rehabilitation/fitness with our pets. This is because pain will result in less use of the limb along with compensatory movements that increase stress on other parts of the body. When a limb is not being used as much it will experience muscle loss. That muscle loss will
decrease the stability of the joint(s), which in turn worsens arthritis pain, and results in our pets using that limb even less!
We need to reduce compensation where possible in order to reduce pain in other parts of the body, and to protect the other joints from injury and pain. Working with a rehabilitation or fitness professional to make a plan (that’s specific for your pet), is an incredibly important, and often overlooked, component of an arthritis treatment plan.
If you are interested in learning more detail about any of the components of osteoarthritis treatment plans introduced above, I’ve done a series for dogs and a series for cats on YouTube that covers additional information about everything listed, and more! I’m a veterinarian who is passionate about sharing research based, best practices, information in an accessible way on Vet Med Corner and want to help you care for your pets as best as is possible.
- Dr. Em
You can learn more from Dr. Em by watching her series below!
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