Keep Your Pets Free From Arthritic Pain

After all the bone-dry weather these last few months, hasn’t it been fantastic to see the rain finally arrive? The downside to this, however, is that cold wet weather is also the precursor to arthritis and so I’d like to talk to you about how to keep your pets free from arthritic pain this winter.

Osteoarthritis, to give it its’ full name, is a common disease in both dogs and cats, even at quite a young age. Luckily, there are lots of things we can do to help alleviate the pain this causes and I’d like to tell you a bit more about that.

By definition, arthritis means inflammation of the joints

  • In Latin, arthr = joint and itis = inflammation)
  • Never mind the Latin, though, what it means to your dog or cat is sore joints!
  • The inflammation causes stretching of the joint capsule and this is very painful.

The most common form is Osteoarthritis, a progressive, degenerative condition affecting cartilage, joint capsules and underlying bone

  • Generally this is the result of repeated, ongoing trauma
  • Often, this is present in more than one joint but can happen following a high-impact injury to a joint such as a ruptured cruciate ligament (think football players knee injury)
  • In nature, dogs (or people) weren’t really designed for the twisting, turning, jumping action involved with chasing a ball!
  • If left untreated, it’s a progressive disease and there’s no question it’s very painful.

It’s a common disease in dogs (and people)

  • Just as with people, many dogs suffer from arthritis and this can be a crippling (literally) disease process.
  • It can happen in very young dogs (even puppies under 12 months) although is more likely in older pets.
  • It’s one of the most common presenting complaints we’re faced with in our consult room, particularly in winter months.

It also occurs frequently in cats although the signs are much more subtle and so it’s often overlooked by owners.

  • With cats, it’s much less likely to be caused by a single trauma event but occurs much more frequently than most people realise.
  • Because cats are much better at hiding the signs of pain, it often takes owners a lot longer to realise their pet is suffering from arthritis.
  • When we question them about it, however, they quickly realise their cat is in just as much need of arthritis treatment as their dogs (or themselves!).

Cold, wet weather tend to make the effects of osteoarthritis much worse

  • Over the next couple of weeks, we’re expecting to see pets showing signs of arthritis again and this comes down to the cold wet weather we’re having.
  • For dogs and cats, the sad fact is that winter is bad news as it brings along with it the signs of arthritis
  • Those of you who suffer from arthritis yourselves will know exactly what I mean, as the disease is very similar in both pets and people.

The signs are stiffness and pain, particularly after first getting up, reluctance to go for a walk or jump up/down, slowing down on walks, limping (“favouring a leg”) or vocalising when lying down or getting up

  • Often they’re worse for a while when they first get up but seem to warm up out of the lameness after moving around for a while
  • It can be quite a struggle to get up or to find a comfortable position when lying down – this is because of sore joints
  • Over time, arthritic dogs tend to lose muscle mass and appear a bit wasted in their legs (if you don’t use muscle regularly it very quickly shrinks in size)

It hurts!!!!

  • Some owners tell us their dog isn’t actually in pain but the reality is that, if they’re limping, it’s because they’re in pain!
  • Ask anyone that has osteoarthritis – they’ll dispel the myth that it doesn’t really hurt.

Excess weight is a major contributing factor in pets

  • Try running around the local oval with a 15kg backpack on and see how your joints feel after a few minutes of exercise – this is the equivalent to an average Labrador carrying an extra 6kg body weight (and you’d be amazed how common that is).
  • The main thing you can do as an owner is weight control – at least 50% of dogs we see are overweight and this is a huge factor in the management of arthritis.

Treatment can be very effective and involves combinations of diet, injections, joint supplements and oral medication

  • The great news is that there are lots of things we can do to help control the pain and discomfort caused by arthritis!
  • There’s no one simple answer to this but the disease can be very well controlled with a combination approach.
  • Environmental modifications make a big difference, for example building ramps to replace steps and using hammock beds or mattresses
  • We’ve already mentioned weight control and that’s something that you can work on as an owner that makes a massive improvement.
  • We have very effective prescription diets designed specifically to treat arthritis. We also use a dietary supplement that works well in conjunction with other treatments.
  • Nowadays, arthritis medication (both tablets/liquid drops and injection courses) is very safe and effective in halting the progress of the disease and relieving the pain associated with this.

If you’d like a bit more information on osteoarthritis, have a look at a couple of online videos we’ve attached.

  • Parnell produce both Zydax (an injectable drug we use with great results in many pets) and Glyde (a dietary supplement based on green muscle and shark cartilage). They have come out with a really good video about arthritis in dogs.
  • There’s also a great video demonstrating the signs of arthritis in cats which has been produced by Boehringer – the makers of Metacam, a really effective anti-inflammatory medication.

What should I do about it?

Of course, all of our staff members are well versed in the signs and treatment of this nasty disease so please give them a call for more information. If you think your dog or cat has any of the above signs, however, it’s probably best to bring them in so that we can have a chat with you about treatment. Like most diseases, the sooner we get started on treating them, the better the response we get and the less your pet will have to suffer. So give us a call on 8522 3500 so that we can prevent arthritis from being the source of pain in your pets. Alternatively, book an appointment directly through our website.

Dr Dave MacPhail

Dr Dave MacPhail

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