Arthritis management and control.
Arthritis: This is the degenerative changes in any joint that results in cartilage damage, changes in joint shape and production of inflammatory chemicals within the joint fluids. These all result in pain, lameness, decreased mobility and ultimately decreased quality of life for our pets.
Arthritis can result from general wear and tear over time and this is the typical older animal stiffness and slow movement we see. Very commonly arthritis will result secondary to joint malformations such at hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, these cases tend to be seen in younger patients and tend to be present throughout life. A common third group of arthritis patients that I see are as a result of a joint injury, the most common following on form cranial cruciate ligament disease in the hind leg.
As a result, arthritis is one of the most common ailments to affect the well-being of our pets.
Now the good news! Today there is a lot that can be done to alleviate and reverse the symptoms of arthritis and return to pet to a better quality of life, keeping them pain free, mobile and happy.
The first step is to not accept that you pet is just getting older and slowing down is just part of being older. If your pet has slowed down and not playing, not leading the way when out on a walk (i.e dragging along behind you) or takes a long time to get to it's feet after laying down. Then pop him or her down to the vet for a check up. Another common misunderstanding is that animals aren't in pain because they still get around very well with a limp and don't cry. The majority of our pets don't like to show weakness and so just get on with the day despite needing to limp on their leg because it's very sore. In any of these instances your vet will be able to assess the underlying cause for the pain and stiffness and give appropriate treatment to alleviate it. I have clients tell me on a weekly basis, how their pet is playing like a puppy or kitten again since starting treatment for arthritis.
So what can be done?
There are 4 aspects to cover in each case of arthritis.
1) Address and underlying cause where possible. For example if lameness is a result of a cruciate ligament rupture, this will inevitable need surgical repair first.
2) Weight control. Overweight pets often need much more medication to control the symptoms of arthritis as apposed to lean animals. Lean body weight animals also show a decreased rate of progression of arthritis, meaning and better prognosis for the long term. Your vet has a vast resource of advice, diets and programs to help you drop your pets weight, so pop down there and they will be only too happy to help to lower your best friends weight (this applies to cats too).
Remember with an arthritic pet your goal is not normal body weight, but a lean body weight for your pet.
3) Exercise regulation. The key here is "regulation". As some say a working joint is a healthy joint, but an overworked joint will be sore! In chronic (long term) arthritis it is not a good idea to stop all exercise to prevent further damage. Neither do you want to exercise the joints to the point of being sore as this will just inflame the joints and worsen the arthritis. The trick is to do the same amount of moderate exercise that your pet is fit for, EVERY DAY. You want the impact on the joints to be light and constant. Weekend trips to the beach with 1 hour of galloping in the sand will just result in stiff painful joints for the next 3 days till the inflammation settles down.
If your pet can manage to lead the way for a 1 hour walk every day then maintain this, if however after 20 minutes walk your pet is starting to slow down, then maybe a 15 minute daily walk is better suited.
4) Medications and supplement. Today there are a variety of very effective arthritis regulating drugs available, that come in a variety of forms.
There are supplements that are used to prevent arthritis in the first place and then also to slow down further degeneration of joints when arthritis already exists. The biggest group of these is Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplementation. Some supplement will also contain green lip mussel.
Common examples of these are Jointguard and Sashas Blend. A number of reputable premium dog food will also contain some of these products.
Chondriotin and Glucosamine are cartilage building block to help with repair, and Green lip mussel extract has anti-inflammatory arthritis modulating effects.
Unfortunately a large group of these products are made from marine (shark) cartilage. Sharks are an endangered species and hence not sustainable source to be using. Jointgard however is an excellent glucosamine and chondriotin supplement derived from cattle cartilage. Through modern technologies they have managed to produce a small molecular weight glucosamine form cattle cartilage that trials show is as effective as the marine derived products. So save the sharks and ask for Jointgard!
Essential Fatty acids and fish oils. The preventative effects of countering arthritis using fish oils have been long known, but only recently endorsed by science.
Anti-inflammatory drugs and injections. When your pet shows lameness or general stiffness in movement that does indicated pain and possible need to modulated this inflammation with drugs. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you if drugs are needed and the one best suited to your pet. Today there are some highly effective anti-inflammtories that can be used on a maintenance basis to help your pet. There are also some injections that can be given at intervals to help regulate discomfort in your pet.
Remember these measure can all be very effective in controlling and alleviating discomfort in your dog, cat or horse. Seek advice form your veterinarian as to the combination indicated for your pet.