Aches and Pains

Is your pet a bit stiff getting up in the mornings?

Does it take a while for them to warm out of it?

Are they not wanting to jump into the car?

Are those long walks you used to enjoy a bit too much these days? 

Osteoarthritis is a common condition in pets. It causes chronic pain, difficulty in movement and a decline in the quality of your pet’s life. Dogs may suffer from arthritis but because they don’t often complain, they may be suffering in silence. In some individuals and in certain breeds, abnormal wear can start quite early in life. This may be as a result of injury or an inherited condition, e.g. hip dsyplasia. Animals of all ages can be affected with older animals being more susceptible.

Tell tale signs

Here are some of the things that suggest your dog might have a problem with arthritic pain. Does your dog show one or more of these signs?

–           Licking or self injury

–           Reluctance to walk

–           Limping or stiffness after getting up from rest

–           Change in character or aggression

–           Yelping in pain when touched

–           Reduced interaction with people

–           Reduced appetite

In the normal joint, the bone surfaces, which meet and rub together, are covered by a thin layer of cartilage – an elastic substance acting as a self-repairing, shock-absorbing layer.

The moving parts of the joint are encased within a capsule with fluid, which acts as a lubricant. Wear and tear, which occurs through out life, may reach a stage where areas of the cartilage become worn, exposing the underlying bone. Abnormal new bone growth can occur contributing to more pain. Leading to inflammation and impaired movement. Your dog’s hips, knees, elbows, shoulder and back bones are the most susceptible joints.

What causes arthritis?

Arthritis frequently results from the cumulative effects of abnormal stresses placed on to the joints. This can occur with abnormal alignment of bones that make the joint, as in hip dysplasia, or with trauma, ageing and continual wear and tear on the joint structures. Obesity can contribute to arthritis, as the joint must carry a greater load than that for which it was designed. Arthritis can also occur in a joint with no obvious cause.

What can you do to help?

Although there is no medical cure, there is still a great deal that can be done to help your dog enjoy a happy life again.

Treatment of impaired mobility in the older dog is aimed at reducing pain and stiffness so improving quality of life.  Joint diets and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents are now commonly used to achieve this, since they reduce the formation of substances in the body which give rise to both pain and inflammation. Anti-inflammatories do not provide a cure but they can ease the pain and inflammation and improves your dog’s mobility and quality of life. Early intervention is important to reduce the likelihood of more severe pain developing.

There are a number of foods and medications available, both prescription and off the shelf, designed to help your pet with arthritis. We have to find the medication that suits your pet the most. This might mean trying two to three different products to find which one gives the best results.

In addition to medication for pain relief, there are 3 important areas to consider for helping your dog with arthritis to enjoy life again:

1)         Weight control – Joint problems can be aggravated by excessive weight. If a joint is not working efficiently, carrying excess weight causes both additional pain and increased damage to the joint. It is important that your dog’s weight is kept under control. Results show that a weight reducing diet can improve the quality of a dog’s life.

2)         Exercise – Regular gentle exercise often helps to maintain mobility as joints that do not have regular movement may stiffen up, encouraging your dog to become less and less active. Over exertion puts an excessive strain on the joints, but not enough exercise will lead to greater stiffness and muscle wastage. Even if your dog is keen to chase a ball or climb mountains, it may be better to avoid such energetic activities. Frequent gentle walks may be of more benefit, in order to prevent further joint damage.

3)         Environment – Make sure your dog has a warm bed away from draughts. This bed should be padded so as not to put excess strain on joints. Try to reduce the number of stairs or the steepness of slope that your dog must use.

If you believe that your dog is suffering from arthritis, make an appointment with us now. We can help to develop a management program to address your dog’s specific needs. Arthritis is a disease that will get progressively worse over time. The sooner it is recognised, the sooner your dog can be helped.

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