Arthritis, and the use of Glucosamine/Chondroitin
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Older rabbit with arthritic feet joints (A. van Praag)
Arthritis is difficult to diagnose in animals, as the clinical signs can relate to various health problems. The signs are furthermore individual to each animal. As a result, every affected rabbit will respond in a different way. Even so, a common sign is the loss of litter habits and refusal to jump in the litter-box.
A physical examination includes the examination of the skin, the joints, the response to reflexes, and determination of muscle strength. A pain reaction is often observed, when rotating the joint. The presence of fluid will be determined around the joints. X-rays will help to visualize the degree of bone and joint destruction, or the presence of a bone spur (osteophyte). Additional blood and urine tests may be necessary to rule out different causes.
The initial proposed treatment includes rest, and relief of pain, with administration of NSAID drugs (e.g., meloxicam). These help reduce pain and the inflammation caused by those bone problems.
Lately, glucosamine/chondroitin has been used to relieve arthritis in rabbit, and various protocols for the administration of these drugs are available for rabbits.
For rabbits, the dosage for cosequin is taken from Carpenter's formulary: "use empirically at feline dose". More precisely, we used cosequin in "our" rabbit and started with 1/4 teaspoon BID. After one month, it was dropped to SID for maintenance.
For Adequan: the used dosage has 2.2 mg/kg SC, IM, q once a week during 4 weeks, then q 14d.
These products do not bring an immediate relief. It usually takes usually 4 weeks before positive effects are noticeable.
Cosequin or adequan do not relieve pain, so pain medication is recommended. Meloxicam (Metacam) is often used. The pain medication does not need to be given on a daily basis, once or twice a week may be enough. There is no rule, just observation of the rabbit and detecting signs of discomfort or pain. According to the behavior of the rabbit, observing its habits, eating, moving, the frequency of pain medication can be increased or decreased, by etc. In one case, the rabbit showed regular relapses. When this happened, ketoprofen was given as long as needed. Usually one or two injections were enough.
Other NSAID analgesic drugs for use in rabbits are described here.
Thanks are due to A. van Praag, for taking the picture of Stampi, and to Stampi, for her patience.
Williams JM, Zhang J, Kang H, Ummadi V, Homandberg GA. The effects of hyaluronic acid on fibronectin fragment mediated cartilage chondrolysis in skeletally mature rabbits. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2003 Jan;11(1):44-9.