Understanding Arthritis in Farm Animals
Arthritis is a painful condition where an animal’s joint gets infected. Without treatment, the infection will continue to get worse and could cripple your animals for the rest of their lives. In addition to being painful, arthritis can cost farmers thousands of dollars in lost production and treatment costs.
Fortunately, there are several practical things you can do to prevent arthritis in your animals. Healthy living conditions, wound care and special attention for young animals can keep arthritic infections down and protect your return on investment. Here’s a brief overview to help you understand arthritis in farm animals.
Causes of Arthritis
Cattle, sheep, goats, horses and pigs can all be affected by arthritis. Infections frequently occur when an animal’s immune system is compromised by damaged skin, trauma, a dirty umbilical cord or a lack of proper nutrition during the first few hours of life. Older animals may also experience arthritis related to age.
Animal joints are difficult for their immune systems to cleanse, which means they are ideal locations for bacteria to populate. The risk of infection by bacteria is higher in wet conditions and is seven times more likely for sheep that are mulesed to prevent flystrike. Preventive care and monitoring for early signs of arthritis are the best ways to protect your livestock from infections.
Does My Animal Have Arthritis?
Arthritis usually presents itself with symptoms like swelling, fever and sometimes skin that is broken and has puss. Animals suffering from arthritis won’t want to move very much because their joints will feel stiff and painful. You may notice changes in their gait, such as a hunched back, shuffling and avoidance of stairs or fast movements like jumping.
Symptoms present differently in baby animals than they do in adults. Infections in young animals are easier to spot and present much stronger symptoms. Older adults will try to cope with the pain by adjusting their movements. Because your animals can’t tell you if they’re in pain, it’s your job to carefully observe them for any changes in behavior that could mean arthritic infection.
You’ll want to make sure before diagnosing that you can also rule out other health conditions. For instance, an injury that may not be noticeable outwardly can cause animals to not want to move or move with an odd gait. Other conditions like hip dysplasia, in which the ball-and-socket joints grind against each other, can massively impair movement and needs to be properly diagnosed.
Impact of Arthritis
If left untreated, arthritis can reduce your production and significantly impact your financial return for the year. When arthritis can’t be cured in younger animals, they’re usually euthanized to avoid a life of pain. The cartilage in younger animals isn’t fully formed for a while and early joining infections can destroy the possibility of healthy bones and joints in adult animals.
Severely crippled animals have a reduced appetite and don’t produce the same amount of milk or quality meat as healthy animals. Although catching arthritis early can lead to full recovery, the cost of vet bills can quickly add up. However, without early intervention, you could lose many animals to arthritic infections.
How to Treat Arthritis
Arthritis is always a bad diagnosis, regardless of an animal’s age and overall health. Preventive measures, like keeping animals dry, sanitizing wounds and ensuring young animals nurse directly after birth, can help strengthen their immune systems and protect them from bacterial infection.
The earlier you catch arthritis, the better. Animals can be healed with antibiotics if symptoms are caught early. For more advanced cases, it can be helpful to have a vet flush the affected joints with a sterile solution every day for several weeks. You can also give your animals natural anti-inflammatories to help their body fight off the infection.
Protect Your Animals from Arthritis
Because arthritis can be deadly, it’s important to aggressively treat arthritic infections as soon as possible. You can protect your animals by watching them for signs of joint pain, swelling and a lack of free movement. It’s especially important to keep an eye on younger animals, as arthritis can quickly destroy their developing joints and maim them for life.
Arthritis can affect animals at any age, causing them pain and reducing your farm’s production. Although treatment can be expensive, it’s better to call in professional help early rather than phone the vet as a last resort. With preventive care and early treatment, you can keep your animals safe from the destructive impact of arthritic infection.