APPROXIMATELY 200,000 pet dogs suffer from painful arthritis in the U.K. Most osteoarthritis happens in joints that don’t form or fit properly (dysplasia of the hips and elbows especially) and so dogs even only a few months old are affected.

Other causes include wear and tear of the joint with age, joint diseases (such as cruciate ligament degeneration), or injury (fracture or dislocation).

All causes trigger inflammation leading to crippling arthritis.

Whilst dogs are most often affected, any animal can develop arthritis, and vets regularly treat cats and even rabbits for pain.

Some dogs are just more reluctant to go for long walks, whereas others are stiff in the mornings but can slowly improve as they start to move around.

Very painful animals are lame.

Cats will hide signs of pain and may just be less keen to jump up or become grumpy and bad tempered.

Animals with mild arthritis can have a better quality of life with careful management.

This can include pain relief / anti-inflammatory medication, gentle controlled exercise (little and often), keeping slim, rehabilitation therapy (e.g. physiotherapy and hydrotherapy) and joint supplements.

If pain can’t be controlled, joint replacement is the gold standard treatment for a pain-free and active life. This involves removal of damaged cartilage and bone and placing complex implants that resurface the joint. Hips are commonly replaced in dogs and sometimes cats now (even the occasional rabbit!) but it is rare to find a specialist centre that can replace elbows and especially ankles.

The orthopaedic team at our regional specialist centre, Wear Referrals in Teesside, is one of only three hospitals in the U.K. that are certified to replace any of the elbow, hip, knee and ankle joints.

They have told us that if you are worried that your pet has painful joint disease, it is always worth having them checked by a vet.

If they need specialist attention, then the team at Wear Referrals assess osteoarthritis in all pets and regularly tailor treatment regimes to individual needs; they even have hydrotherapy and physiotherapy facilities on site.

Dr Neil Burton who leads the service is the only UK surgeon to replace an ankle in a pet dog.