Your dog or cat may have arthritis if you have noticed any of the following:
- Reluctance to exercise or play
- Lameness or a change in gait
- Inability/decreased ability to jump or climb stairs
- Uses a chair to climb to their favourite spot (cat specific)
- Pain when a certain point is touched
- Pain and stiffness after prolonged activity
- Swollen joints
The first step in managing arthritis is to schedule an appointment for a thorough clinical examination. In order to accurately diagnose your pet’s condition, sedation and radiographs may be required to determine exactly what is happening in their joints. A multi-targeted plan can then be developed to best suit you and ensure your pet is comfortable.
To help your dog be happy and enjoy life again, there are several important areas that we will focus on:
1. Weight management
Weight management is the most important part of managing arthritis. Overweight animals place more weight on their joints causing increased inflammation and irritation to them, which in turn can hasten the progression of arthritis. Please ask us about our weight loss program for your pet if necessary.
2. Exercise management
Exercise is a very important part of managing arthritis. Regular controlled exercise (leash walking, swimming) is extremely beneficial for keeping the joints mobile and the muscles working well. Uncontrolled or excessively prolonged exercise (chasing after tennis balls, racing up and down stairs) can cause flare-ups of joint pain and place undue pressure on ligaments which may result in permanent damage to the joints.
3. Home comforts/ environment changes
In mild cases, some simple steps taken at home will help to reduce their level of pain and discomfort. Ensure that your pet has a warm, comfortable place to sleep that is away from drafts. Plenty of bedding will help protect sore joints. Provide a ramp in the garden, as an alternative to stairs and provide assistance when getting in and out of cars.
4. Veterinary treatments
There are various treatments available to manage osteoarthritis in pets that your veterinarian will discuss with you. The best option will depend on a number of different factors involving your dog such as age, severity of signs, progression of the disease process and whether they have any other health problems. It is important that all arthritic patients be accurately diagnosed before starting a treatment plan. The different treatments that can be offered include:
- Prescription diets and nutraceuticals: e.g. Royal Canin Mobility diet, Hills J/D, Antinol, Forcyte. These are dietary supplements or prescriptions diets that contain ingredients such as Glucosamine, Chondroitin sulphate, Fish Oils, Plant extracts and/ or Green Lipped mussel. These agents work together to aid the protection of joints and can be given on a long term basis to help reduce inflammation over time.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s): These medications are specifically formulated for use in dogs and should only be prescribed by a veterinarian. They work by reducing the inflammation around the joints and by providing significant pain relief. With regular check-ups with your veterinarian to monitor your dog’s liver and kidney function, we can assess the most appropriate NSAID and dose rate to administer. Most patients respond very well to their use.
- Other pain relief: if the NSAIDs are not controlling your pets pain adequately, have a chat to one of our staff as we have other medications we can add to ensure your pet is comfortable.
- Disease modifying osteoarthritis drugs (Pentosan polysulfate): These medications are given as a series of injections: one injection a week for four weeks and the course of 4 injections usually needs to be repeated every 1-3 months. They act to stabilise joint membranes, help joint cartilage repair and improve joint lubrication. They provide significant improvement in a high percentage of arthritis patients with minimal (if any) side effects.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy involves specific activities designed to improve strength and mobility without causing additional stress on a joint. It is also a useful adjunct to helping a pet lose weight and assisting rehabilitation following joint surgery. Please note: It is not the same as going to the beach and walking on sand/ running in and out of the surf. There are a number of potential benefits of physical therapy in arthritic pets.
- Surgery: There are a number of surgical procedures available for pets with, or who will be predisposed to osteoarthritis including total hip replacements. The surgical options depend on the patient, and the nature of the joint disease present. This can be discussed on an individual basis during the consultation process.
If you feel that your dog may have any of the symptoms mentioned above or are concerned that your dog may be suffering from arthritis, please speak to one of our staff.