Animal Health Care

Canine Arthritis

The canine skeletal system is a marvel of bones, cartilage, and ligaments that provide the body with a framework to erect on four strong legs, protect internal organs, and provide a full range of motion. The muscles furnish the power to propel the dog into action, but without healthy bones, joints, and connective tissue, the muscles cannot do their job.
Joints — the skeletal hinges — give the skeleton flexibility for walking, trotting, running, jumping, climbing, and moving the head and neck to increase the field of vision. The dog's body has three types of joints: ball and socket such as the hip and shoulder joints; hinged joints such as the knees and elbows; and gliding or plane joints such as the wrists and ankles. The joints are lubricated for smooth action by synovial fluid and are stabilized by tendons and ligaments. When the joints are damaged by injury or disease, arthritis (joint inflammation) can occur.

Two Types of Arthritis:
Degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) results from destruction of the cartilage that protects the bones that make up the joint. Cartilage destruction can be the result of normal stress on abnormal joints or abnormal stress on normal joints. Hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip sockets, is one example of normal stress on abnormal joints. Constant jumping over obstacles, stretching or tearing ligaments during strenuous exercise, or injuries in a fall or accident are examples of abnormal stress on normal joints.
Degenerative joint disease can be further subdivided into primary disease for which no known cause is evident and secondary disease for which a cause can be pinpointed. Among the causes of secondary degenerative joint disease are hip dysplasia, patella luxation (loose kneecaps), osteochondritis dissecans (OCD, the development of cartilage “flaps” in the joints when bone development is disturbed), trauma, and ruptured cruciate (knee) ligaments. Secondary degenerative joint disease can sometimes be prevented or halted by surgical repair of the joint before arthritis progresses.
Degenerative arthritis may not manifest until the dog has had years of abnormal stress. Since cartilage has no nerves, the damage can progress with no outward signs until the joint is severely compromised and the lubricating fluid has thinned and lost its ability to protect the bone surfaces.

Inflammatory joint disease can be caused by infection or by underlying immune-mediated diseases. Inflammatory arthritis usually affects multiple joints and is accompanied by signs of systemic illness including fever, anorexia, an all-over stiffness.
Again, this type of arthritis is subdivided into infectious and immune-mediated categories. Infectious joint disease can be caused by bacteria, by tick-borne diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and by fungal infection.
Immune-mediated arthritis is cause by underlying weakness in the immune system and can be hereditary. Rheumatoid arthritis, a deforming type of immune-mediated arthritis, is rare in dogs. Systemic lupus and an idiopathic (unidentified) immune-related arthritis both can cause nondestructive joint infections.
Because infectious joint disease and immune-mediated joint disease call for different treatment protocols, diagnosis must be accurate. The immuno-suppressive drugs used to treat the immune-mediated disease may allow the infectious type of disease to thrive.

Signs of Arthritis:
  • Reluctance to walk, climb stairs, jump, or play
  • Limping
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Difficulty rising from a resting position
  • Yelping in pain when touched
  • A personality change resisting touch
> Treatment:
Degenerative joint disease can sometimes be halted or prevented by surgery when x-rays indicate joint malformations. If surgery is not indicated or advisable, relief can be achieved with painkillers, exercise, rest, and diet. However, even over-the-counter painkillers should not be used without the advice of a veterinarian.(4)
Researchers are ever busy trying to find new generations of drugs to relieve pain. The latest in pain relievers for canine arthritis includes

    • Rimadyl, Adequan, and Palaprin, all available only from veterinarians.
    • Rimadyl (generic name carprofen) has gotten raves from veterinarians for its ability to relieve pain with few side effects. Long-term use of this drug requires periodic blood tests for liver function, but most dogs apparently do well on it. Like all drugs, however, Rimadyl is not effective for all patients.
    • Adequan (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan)(5) is given by injection twice each week for four weeks. It not only relieves the pain of arthritis, it binds to damaged cartilage to facilitate repair, blocks the action of destructive enzymes that cause inflammation, and stimulates the production of healthy joint fluid.
    • Palaprin6 is a buffered aspirin specifically for dogs; it can be used in the same circumstances in which aspirin is used but without the gastrointestinal irritation that sometimes occurs with aspirin.
There are other drug treatments; dogs with arthritis should be under veterinary care, and the veterinarian can determine which treatment is best for each dog.
Diet also plays an important part in arthritis treatment, especially to control the patient's weight. Excess weight causes more stress on the joints and exacerbates existing arthritis pain. In large breed dogs, periods of rapid growth can lead to development of OCD and joint dysplasias if the underlying genetic code is present, so special attention should be paid to the diets of these puppies to prevent too-rapid weight gain.
Whether drugs, surgery, or both are indicated in arthritis treatment owners should make sure their pets get plenty of rest and are not asked to perform painful exercise during treatment and recuperation. Veterinary advice in the matter of exercise should be followed even though it may seem that the recovery is slow. Ultimately, the type and duration of exercise will have to be restricted to reduce the pain as much as possible.
  • Hip Replacement:

  • Just as humans may have joints and hips replaced and remodeled, so can dogs. Osteoarthritis commonly damages the hips in a dog, and in order to relieve that pain caused by the osteoarthritis, hip replacement surgeries can be performed. Hip replacement surgery is most common in mid/larger breeds of dogs, sinc emost animals under 40lbs. do not normally develope serious symptoms of oseoarthritis.
total hip replacement
total hip replacement



  • Image:Artificial hip in dog.JPG
    Image:Artificial hip in dog.JPG

  • Feline Immune Deficiency Virus

  • Feline Immune Deficiency Virus (FIV) is a virus known as a retrovirus. The major characteristic of retroviruses is that they decrease the ability of the immune system to fight infections. FIV would be the equivalent of HIV in humans.

  • Transmission of the Virus
  • FIV can only be transmitted from cat to cat, no other species. Deep bite wounds from other felines usually spread it. Because the virus is spread from fighting and biting, it is more common in stray and/or feral cats. Transmission can also be spread from a mother to its offspring. It can be spread to her kittens during pregnancy, birth, nursing or grooming within the first weeks.

  • Symptoms of the Virus:
  • The majority of FIV positive cats have a long incubation period, which means most cats show signs later in their life or a cat could go their whole lives without showing signs. Because the cats immune system is compromised, they develop illnesses that are unrelated to the virus itself. It is the onset of these illnesses that may be the first indication a cat is immuno-suppressed which can raise the suspicion of an underlying retroviral infection. Some of the common health problems reported in cats in the chronic stage of FIV include:
  • Oral-cavity infections

  • Upper-respiratory infections

  • Weight loss

  • Skin infections
  • Ear infections

  • Fever of unknown origin

  • Enlarged lymph nodes

  • Low red- or white-blood-cell counts

  • Kidney disease

  • Eye disease
  • Reproductive failure, such as spontaneous abortions or still births

  • Neurological diseases, such as personality changes, tremors, or seizures

  • Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention:
  • FIV is diagnosed by testing the blood for antibodies against the virus. Cats can be tested for the virus easily in most animal hospitals. The test most commonly used is called the ELISA, which is a simple ten-minute test. The ELISA test could come back with a false positive so there is another test, which is more accurate called the Western Blot Test. Treatment for the virus is based on the symptoms that arrive because of the immune systems lack of ability to fight illnesses. It is important for a FIV positive cat to be on a healthy diet that includes Vitamin B. There is no vaccine to protect your cat from FIV. The best way to prevent this Virus is not to let your cat outside to roam, get it tested and any other cats that might be in the household. It is also important to get you cat neutered because it is more common for an unneutered tom cat to fight with other cats. It is also important to keep them updated on their vaccines to prevent other diseases, since they are more susceptible.

  • Living with a FIV positive cat:
  • I personally decided to research this topic for the class because I have a FIV positive cat at home who I adopted from the shelter I worked at. Most shelters have a policy of euthenizing FIV positive cats, which is why I adopted my cat. Having a FIV positive is really no different than living with a regular cat. They require a steady diet with a lot of vitamins and annual doctor check- ups. Living with a FIV positive cat means no letting it outside, no other cats unless they too have the Virus and knowing that they might not live as long as other cats and could become sick.

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