Thanks to the advances in veterinary medicine our pets are now living to a ripe, old age.
The only downside to this is now we are seeing a higher prevalence of age-related diseases. One of the most commonly presented chronic illnesses is osteoarthritis.
Degenerative joint disease can occur in all ages, even young dogs can be seen with this condition due to hereditary, poorly formed joints however in this blog we will be focusing on age-related arthritis. 80% of dogs have arthritis by the time they are 8 years old. As our pets age the cartilage surfaces of the joint erode, this degeneration can progress to bone rubbing on bone which is just as painful as it sounds. Symptoms to look out for include stiff gait / lameness, difficulty in rising from rest, loss of muscle (atrophy), reluctant to mobilise in ways in which they once use to e.g. jumping into car, slowing down on walks or licking at joints. Cats may also defecate and/ or urinate around their litter tray as it becomes too painful to jump in and out. However it’s important to add, that lameness and stiff gait can be related to other medical conditions such as soft tissue injury, spinal injuries or bone cancer. Disclaimer not all mobility problems are related to joint issues, prior to making an assumption which could worsen your pets condition we recommend see one of our SuperVets to get personalised information and assessment for your pets individual condition.
There are things you can do for your pet to improve their quality of life.
Here are Supervets top 5 tips in managing arthritis.
- Weight management:
We need to start with the heaviest topic – obesity! A national survey found that 41% of dogs and 32% of cats in Australia are either overweight or obese. If you are guilty of giving that extra treat or left-overs and your pet is getting rounder you could quite literally be killing them with kindness. There are specialised weight management diets that can be recommended by our vets depending on your individualised pets nutritional needs. Our vets can assess your pets body condition score and provide specific education if needed and help your pet to achieve an optimal and healthy weight.
- Low impact exercise:
Your pet may be reluctant to mobilise as they once use to however you should still encourage low intensity exercises. This form of exercise will retain their muscle mass which will stabilise their joints and keep their tendons flexible.Types of exercises we promote are swimming, short distance slow paced walks and gentle play sessions. Avoiding high intensity exercises that involve running or jumping.
- Pain management:
Your pet can do a very good job at concealing their discomfort to you but if they are exhibiting the signs of arthritis then there is no doubt they are in pain. There are numerous pain methods that can be initiated. Pentosan/Cartrophen is the cornerstone for effective long-term management of arthritis. It acts to maintain joint health by preserving joint cartilage. Other types of pain relief that can be prescribed for your pet include opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory’s and nerve pain medications. These all need to be prescribed and closely managed by a veterinarian.
There are numerous natural supplements that can be used in conjunction with these types of therapies. Some of the most commonly used are fish oil, 4cyte, glucosamine/ chondroitin they assist in lubrication and reduces inflammation of joints.
- Complimentary and at-home therapies:
Providing your pet with soft bedding, keeping them warm in winter, applying non-slip flooring and using ramps to avoid arthritic pets having to navigate stairs are all ways to provide at home help. Complimentary therapies that can be of benefit also include massaging joints and acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine that we offer at Supervets with our veterinarian acupuncturist Dr Marion Leow, see services page for further information.
If you want any further information relating to this topic please consult with one of our experienced vets who can provide you with individualised information catered to your pets needs.