The winter season is starting to make its appearance and with it those pets with arthritis and/or hip dysplasia may be feeling more uncomfortable as the colder weather increases their aches and pains.
Arthritis is joint inflammation. It can occur in all joints of the body, including the spine. Among the causes of arthritis are injury, infection, congenital weakness, and deterioration due to the aging process. Signs of arthritis are lameness, stiffness after resting, joint tenderness, and crepitation (a "grating" sensation when moving an affected joint).
Hip dysplasia is a defect of the hip joint found most often in giant and large breed dogs. The hip is a "ball and socket" type joint. In dysplasia, the normally rounded head of the femur is flattened and fits poorly into the socket. Hind leg lameness, swaying or staggering, discomfort upon arising, and reluctance to run and jump are all signs of dysplasia. X-rays can help confirm the presence of this disease.
In both arthritis and hip dysplasia, treatment can range from rest and pain relieving medications to joint surgery. Owners can help their pets in the winter by changing sleeping arrangements, for example. Dogs and cats who develop arthritis may need to sleep on soft or warmer surfaces. Pets who spend most of their time outdoors may need to begin sleeping inside or in a warmer part of the house. If you're a cat owner, making the litter box more accessible may be helpful since arthritic cats have more difficulty jumping. With your help, the goal in the management of arthritic or dysplastic patients is to restore as much normal function as possible, and minimize the discomfort associated with these conditions.
What is most important for you to realize as pet owners is that there are ways to alleviate your pet's discomfort. If you notice any of the above signs of arthritis of hip dysplasia, especially in the winter, bring your pet to a veterinarian.
The writers are Dr. Steven B. Holzman, Dr. William R. Haagenson and Dr. Kathleen Tapley. They are associated with the Nassau-Suffolk Veterinary Hospital of Farmingdale.