An Ailment That Can Cripple Your Pet Is On The Rise

Published on June 26, 2019

It’s crippling. It’s heartbreaking and it’s affecting more and more pets: Arthritis.

A new report out this week reveals that the number of dogs and cats diagnosed with osteoarthritis has more than doubled in the last decade.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is when an animal’s joint tissue becomes inflamed and damaged. It’s mostly found in the elbows, knees, and hips. Tragically it gets worse over time. If left untreated the disease makes it very painful for pets to walk.

The report, from Banfield Pet Hospital, found the disease has increased by 84% in the last ten years. It’s much more prevalent in dogs than cats. And though it can strike at any age, it’s usually worse in older pets.

The tag line for the Banfield study.
What causes osteoarthritis?

Experts say the cause isn’t always easy to pinpoint, it could stem from an injury, genes or joint dysplasia, but more and more vets are linking it to weight gain.

Banfield revealed that 52% of dogs and 41% of cats with osteoarthritis are overweight or obese.  And if your dog or cat is on the heavy side now, they run a chance of getting the dreaded disease in the future.

Grit Daily reported on how having a fat pet can cost you big bucks, but it can also cause your pet a lot of agony.

Veterinarian Lori Teller, who is on the Board of Directors for the American Veterinary Medical Association, told Grit Daily not taking your pet’s weight seriously could cost your pet their life.

Dog with arthritis on scale.

“Obesity is the number health problem facing our pets,” Teller said. “Excess weight affects major organs and can exacerbate many conditions, resulting in a decreased quality of life and poorer health for our pets.”

The cost of paying for these chronic conditions can add up to thousands of dollars, especially if your pet suffers a weight-related orthopedic issue.

“Dogs and cats are also prone to arthritis in their joints, especially hips, knees, elbows, carpi (wrists), and shoulders. Obesity significantly worsens this condition to the point where some of these animals can no longer walk more than a few steps, get into bed, or even, in the case of cats, use the litter box,” Teller said. 

What can you do if your pet is diagnosed with osteoarthritis?

Talk to your vet about how to manage the pain. There are anti-inflammatory medications, alternative therapies, like cold laser treatments, acupuncture and swim therapy.

Most of all it’s important for pets with the disease to slim down.

“If a pet is overweight and has health problems, it may still not be too late to improve those conditions simply by getting the excess weight off the dog or cat,” Teller said. “This can be done with a diet and exercise program designed in conjunction with your veterinarian to reach your pet’s ideal weight and to monitor changes in health as the pet’s obesity diminishes.

Dog with arthritis at swim therapy.

Looking for more news from Watchdog Mary on Grit Daily? Check out her full column, here.

"Watchdog" Mary Schwager is a Columnist at Grit Daily. She is a television and print journalist watch-dogging for consumers and animals. She is honored to have won 16 Emmy awards, seven Edward R. Murrow awards, and Associated Press awards for investigative reporting and writing.

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