Arthritis is inflammation of any joint in the body. Inflammation may have many causes. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis which can be due to wear and tear on joints from overuse, aging, and injury or from an unstable joint which, for example, occurs with a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in the knee. The chronic form of arthritis is termed degenerative joint disease (DJD).
Estimates show that 20% of dogs older than one year of age have some form of DJD. One study showed that 90% of cats over 12 years of age had evidence of DJD on x-rays. Infection can be another cause of joint inflammation. Bacterial or fungal infections cause septic arthritis. Tick-borne rickettsial diseases, such as Lyme, Ehrlichia or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can also cause arthritis. Auto-immune diseases, more commonly known as immune-mediated diseases, such as Rheumatoid arthritis can cause swollen, painful and inflamed joints. More rarely, tumors can cause arthritis.
Treatment for arthritis should target the inciting cause, if possible. Surgery may be necessary to stabilize an affected joint. DJD may be treated with cartilage protective agents such as IRAP, glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM or Adequan, regenerative stem cells, low level laser therapy, non-steroridal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), pain medication such as Tramadol or as a last resort, steroids. NSAIDs come in many forms.
In general, it is recommended to use NSAIDs developed for pets. In fact, human NSAIDs are highly likely to cause ulcers in dogs. Even “safe” NSAIDs can have potential side effects and should not be used without concern.