What is Rheumatism?
Rheumatism is a condition that causes pain, inflammation, swelling, stiffness and damage to the joint cartilage of both animals and humans. Rheumatism in animals has a tendency to affect the hind quarters - joints, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons of the lower half of the body (hips, legs and hocks).
This condition is most commonly seen in the older dog with most of the pain due to muscle spasm. Joints are the areas where two bones meet such as the knee, hip, shoulder or elbow. They allow an animal’s body to move in many different ways.
Damage to the joints can result in joint weakness, instability and visible deformities. Over time, as your pet ages, his or her joints naturally degenerate. However, when pets experience excessive pain and stiffness in their bodies it may be as a direct result of rheumatism.
There are many different signs and symptoms of rheumatism. Animals with rheumatism often experience joint inflammation, joint stiffness or the joint –may become inflamed, reddish in appearance, warm to the touch and swollen or tender.
Some breeds are particularly prone to joint problems. Rheumatism symptoms may flare up suddenly or gradually over a period of time. You may notice your pet seems to be fatigued, has trouble sleeping. Rheumatism in cats may cause your cat to have trouble jumping.
What Causes Rheumatism?
The most common cause of rheumatism in pets is old age. Particular breeds may also be susceptible to rheumatism if they have been inbred too much. Rheumatism may also result from the accumulation of waste metabolic products in the muscles. As a pet owner, the food you feed your pet is also important, as certain foods can relieve the symptoms of rheumatism helping to eliminate toxic waste from the system.
Domestic dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors (especially in freezing weather) are more likely to suffer with rheumatism. Additional weight will also put extra strain on joints, so if your cat or dog is obese or heavier than he or she should be, it may be time for a healthier diet. Other causes may include:
- Abnormal bone or joint development
- Instability of the surrounding ligaments and tendons
- Damage to joints
- Injury caused by a weak immune system
The diagnosis of rheumatism is based on your pet’s symptoms, physical examination and medical history. Additional tests such X-rays and blood tests may be ordered by your vet to determine the severity of the rheumatism.
Help for Rheumatism
Conventional treatment usually consists of anti-inflammatory treatments (such as Rimadyl). These medications may stop the inflammation in the short term and help make activity more comfortable, yet these drugs may contribute to unpleasant side effects for your pet. Supportive treatments such as physical therapy, hydrotherapy, mobilization, tens, relaxation therapy or acupuncture can also reduce pain, inflammation and stiffness.
There are many natural herbal and homeopathic remedies that can help to reduce joint pain and help keep animals limber. Harpagophytum procumbens (Devil's Claw) is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory used world-wide for osteo-arthritis, fibrositis, rheumatism, small joint disease and lower backache.
Biochemic Tissue Salts such as Calcium Fluoride, Natrium Phosphoricum and Natrium Sulphate help to restore tone to muscles and tendons while improving ease of movement in the body. Regular use will help to improve mobility and reduce the pain.