November – Osteoarthritis Awareness Month
“It’s hell getting old!” How many times have you heard this expression?? Too often this thought is elicited by the aches and pains of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative disease that affects the bones and soft tissue of the joints, causing pain and decreased flexibility. While there is no cure for this degenerative disease, it can be treated and effectively managed if early detection and a accurate diagnosis is made.
Osteoarthritis is usually a consequence of other conditions such as an injury, inflammation, age or obesity. Clinical symptoms range from stiffness, and decreased activity to limping, difficulty rising and in more severe cases decreased range of motion and unprovoked barking or yelping in the case of a dog.
In order to effectively treat osteoarthritis a veterinarian must first properly diagnose the disease. One of the most exciting new tools in the armor of progressive medicine is digital radiography. Just as digital cameras have revolutionized photography, digital radiography is changing the face of x-ray technology. Now, in less than four seconds, we can take a digital x-ray of a patient’s injury or area of concern. We know instantly whether we have a good view of the target area or if we need to get another angle of it. Additionally, a digital radiograph can be manipulated after it is taken. This allows us to vary the contrast or magnify areas of concern. Because of this advantage, we can see things on the digital image which a film x-ray just wouldn’t allow us to before. We have actually improved our abilities to diagnose due to this ability. Digital technology allows veterinarians to make a more rapid and confident diagnosis. In turn we can start treating sooner. Quicker treatment generally results in a faster and more positive outcome.
With a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, a veterinarian will recommend a combination of: weight control, proper diet, controlled exercise and physical therapy, anti-flammatory and analgesic drugs and disease modifying agents to effectively manage the pain and discomfort of this disease.
John F. Bitter DVM
Argyle Veterinary Hospital