Did you know that one in five dogs suffers from arthritis during some stage of their lives? Did you know that osteoarthritis is one of the most common chronic pain conditions treated by veterinarians?
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints, especially the synovial tissues, causing pain, swelling and reduced mobility of the animal. When these joints suffer a degeneration of the articular cartilage, they suffer from osteoarthritis or degenerative osteoarthritis, a progressive disease that can severely affect the animal’s quality of life. In the following post we talk about arthritis and osteoarthritis and reveal the keys to the treatment and prevention of these diseases.
Why do our dogs suffer from joint diseases?
The joints most affected by arthritis or osteoarthritis are usually the elbow, carpus (or wrist), knee, hip and spine. Joint inflammations can come from different causes such as some autoimmune diseases, infections, trauma, etcetera.
On the other hand, the progressive degeneration of the cartilage is always related to secondary causes such as recurrent arthritis, obesity or intense physical exercise and high impact (especially when it is in age of development). There is a predisposition to suffer these pathologies depending on the breed of dog, as in the case of German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, Boxers, Staffordshire Terriers, Pugs or Bulldogs, for example, a poor diet, especially in the growing age of the dog, can result in the suffering of joint diseases in the future due to dietary deficits. Therefore, it is very important to take preventive care during the animal’s life to try to avoid this type of problems in our pets.
How can you detect arthritis in your pet in time?
In general, joint problems can be easily detected by the owners of the animal because it is usually seen that the animal has a mobility problem. It is important to periodically check your pet’s well-being and when the time comes, it is essential to visit your veterinarian so that he can diagnose the disease in time. These are some of the signs that an animal with arthritis or osteoarthritis can give you:
- Difficulty walking, sitting or standing.
- Reduced physical activity.
- Refusal to go up or down stairs.
- Grunting or pain when touched.
- Swollen or even deformed joints.
- Loss of appetite
Large breed dogs are the most prone to develop this type of pathology, so prevention from puppyhood is important to control the disease. Adequate nutrition, weight control and moderate exercise are fundamental factors to avoid the disease. In addition, in pets with breeds with a genetic predisposition to develop the disease, it is important to carry out periodic check-ups with the veterinarian to know the state of the animal’s joints.
How can arthritis be treated in pets?
As we have already seen, arthritis is a painful disease that can be cured, but if it progresses to osteoarthritis, it cannot. In this case, the indicated treatment will seek to make the disease progress as slowly as possible. Specialists usually prefer a conservative treatment, but sometimes there is no other option but to intervene surgically.
The treatment of arthritis in pets depends on the severity, time and location of the disease. The most common treatments are as follows:
Medication: The most commonly used medications to treat arthritis are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which are aimed at reducing fever, inflammation and relieving pain. There are many brand names and some formulations are especially focused on joint pain. Another drug used to slow joint wear and tear are chondroprotectors, which effectively restore cartilage and synovial fluid, regenerating, hydrating and providing elasticity to the joint.
Physical stimulation: Physical exercise can be very beneficial in controlling weight to avoid future joint problems. However, too much exercise can end up being detrimental. Professionals usually recommend physical therapy for dogs suffering from these diseases, and swimming is usually beneficial as their limbs do not have to carry the weight of the animal.
Diet and supplements: As we have already mentioned, a good diet is a key factor to provide the necessary nutrients and to prevent the animal from becoming overweight. The use of nutraceutical and natural products has an additional benefit for the pet’s health.
Artemisia annua, a nutraceutical to complement arthritis treatment
A nutraceutical is a supplement that provides health benefits, either preventing certain pathologies or complementing their treatment. There are studies and clinical evidence that relate how several natural products can provide benefits in the treatment of arthritis in pets.
Artemisia annua is an aromatic herbaceous plant native to Asia, a species that stands out from the rest of its genus as an excellent and important source of clinically proven therapeutic compounds. Its main molecule, artemisinin, has been extensively studied in recent years to elucidate its therapeutic potential for the treatment of autoimmune (multiple sclerosis), dermatological (seborrheic dermatitis), rare diseases (Lyme disease and schistosomiasis) and inflammatory (rheumatoid arthritis) diseases.
Several in vitro and in vivo studies have highlighted the anti-inflammatory capacity of the plant and its main molecule, artemisinin. It has been possible to see how this, inhibits the inflammatory response by regulating proteins that control this process, such as NF-κB (Wang et al., 2016). In addition, other molecules present in the composition of the plant also have a similar effect, such as flavonoids or casticin (Li et al., 2015). Specifically in animals suffering from arthritis, it has been possible to see how artemisinin can alleviate the joint inflammatory process, reduce cartilage degradation and regulates cell death of chondrocytes (cells that maintain the cartilage matrix) (Feng, et al., 2018). Thus, accompanying the indicated treatment with natural products could reach better results by improving animal welfare.
In summary, the treatment of arthritis requires a multifaceted approach involving proper nutrition, weight control, activity and physical therapy, the use of medication prescribed by the veterinarian and dietary supplementation with natural products. Remember to always consult with your veterinarian before starting any treatment for your pet. Any treatment must be supervised by veterinary personnel.