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Lady and the bump- an article about arthritis

Lady is one of those Labradors that has the angelic face of a seal and looks at you with the most enormous eyes you can imagine. As a vet I see this a lot because it is often a slightly pleading look that says, ĎI donít want to be here so please donít be bad to meí. She had come in because she had gone lame on her front leg and wasnít getting any better. I found that her elbow was quite swollen and full of fluid. After a good week of rest and some pain-relief she seemed a little better but still occasionally limping and the swelling was still there. We decided to x-ray to make sure there was nothing sinister going on.

Our new digital x-ray machine is lovely to have and makes it very easy to show clients the details of x-rays because the images can be enlarged. For Lady the cause of her trouble was clear- arthritis of the elbow with a swelling of the joint capsule called synovitis. There was no sign of any tumour or any infection and her other elbow looked immaculate, which is always worth knowing.

Arthritis is incredibly common in older dogs, particularly the larger breeds like Labs and retrievers. With wear and tear the cartilage that lines the joint becomes very pitted and roughened and the synovial fluid that acts as a shock absorber becomes thin and watery instead of viscous like lubricating oil. The edges of the bones round the joint lose their lovely, smooth lines and new bone gets deposited which causes inflammation and discomfort. We also find that many dogs are fine on exercise but become very stiff and lame after theyíve rested and the joint has seized up. I have to admit that after a spell at the computer, my knees feel exactly the same!

Lady has started on supplements of glucosamine. My dad and many of my clients swear by it for their own joints and Iíve seen it help numerous dogs. The idea is that it slows down the progression of the disease by helping to repair the damaged cartilage and thicken back up the watery joint fluid. Lady will probably need occasional anti-inflammatories to help with flare-ups but she is a typical Labrador in her stoicism about such things and the sight of a rabbit will soon make her forget all about her age.

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