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Arthritis is an inflammation of any joint in the body. The inflammation can have many causes. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis which can be due to normal use of an abnormal joint, abnormal use of a normal joint or trauma. The chronic form of this disease is called degenerative joint disease (DJD). It is estimated 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. Two of the more common causes of DJD are elbow or hip dysplasia and a tear of the ACL (knee ligament).
Other causes of the inflammation can be infectious. Septic arthritis is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. Lyme disease or Ehrlichia infection can also cause arthritis. Auto-immune diseases, or what is now called immune- mediated diseases, such as Lupus can cause swollen, painful, inflamed joints. More rarely, tumors can cause arthritis.
Treatment for arthritis should be directed to the inciting cause if possible. Surgery may be needed to stabilize a joint. Medical management of arthritis is best done using what is called a multimodal approach.
A multimodal approach may include nutritional changes, environmental changes (physiotherapy), Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), pain killers (Tramadol) and/or chondroprotectives (Adequan/Cartrophen). NSAIDs have many types. In general, it is recommended to use NSAIDs developed for pets (Metacam), and not ones made for use in people as those are highly likely to cause ulcers in dogs, and most NSAIDs are toxic in cats.