By Guest Author, Dr. Jill Bishop, My Veterinary Hospital
So, it starts with phrases like, “he’s starting to show his age” or “he can’t keep up with his sister” or “he has some trouble zipping up the stairs like she used to”. When I hear these phrases, I think arthritis. What most pet owners do not realize is we can do something to treat this condition. In addition to possibly regaining some energy, spunk, dexterity, it is important to remember that we can also alleviate some of the discomfort and pain associated.
Let’s talk about some background on arthritis. Each joint consists of two bones covered at the ends with a layer of cartilage, encapsulated in a joint capsule filled with slippery joint fluid. The cartilage on the ends of our bones provide a smooth and somewhat softer tissue than the bone underneath. As we age, this cartilage can wear thin and can expose the bone underneath. Without sufficient cartilage coverage, the joint becomes a harsh environment with bone-to-bone grinding. As a response to this, the body elicits an inflammatory response, and will lay down more bone tissue causing osteophytes (bone spurs). As the cartilage lessens and the inflammation and osteophytes increase, the pain becomes more severe. With this increase in pain, the patient often will be less willing to move around.
The 5 Pillars of management
The good news? There are ways to combat this progressing condition! After the condition is confirmed through a visit to your family veterinarian, the pain and discomfort can begin to be addressed. Arthritis is managed through multi-modal therapy. I like to think of it as five pillars.
The first is weight control. Every extra, unnecessary pound our pets carry makes a difference. Keeping our older pets on the trim side can be a challenge. We are up against a slower metabolism and an arthritic pet that doesn’t feel good enough for big exercise. (Keep your eyes peeled for my weight management blip in the near future writings).
The second pillar is exercise. Not too much, not too little. Usually our pets feel the creeky, crunchy joints first thing in the morning, but once they move around some this becomes less noticeable. Brief walks two to three times a day of five to ten minutes, depending on your pet’s abilities can be a great help. Big weekend romps with a dog buddy or a squirrel chasing moment in the backyard can both seem like great fun at the time, but sadly our arthritic patients will pay for this in pain over the next 48 hours following these events.
The third pillar is glucosamines. These wonderful neutraceuticals are used to preserve and promote cartilage health. Our joints can use all the help they can get. There are many products available, both veterinary only and human use. Consult your vet for a recommendation as to how much and which product is best for your pet.
The fourth pillar is anti-inflammatory and pain therapy. This could be one or a combination of medications. There are some wonderful medications specific for dogs and cats that have been studied and proven safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration. A veterinarian can determine which medication and at what dose is right for your pet.
The fifth and final pillar for controlling the effects of arthritis in your pet is joint fluid support. There are products available through veterinarians that with a quick series of injections can increase the amount of joint fluid to the joints, reducing friction and cushioning the bones.