It's no secret that as we age our joints begin to be an issue ,unfortunately it goes with the territory! We manage arthritis and chronic orthopedic conditions on a daily basis with our patients; it is especially common in certain breeds. If you notice that your pet is uncomfortable secondary to any orthopedic or arthritic issues there are things that we can do to help manage their pain and keep them content.We try to start out with the most conservative methods of treatment at first.
Maintaining a healthy consistent weight will be beneficial to your animal long term. Keeping them trim will reduce pressure and tension on the joints and help reduce pain secondary to inflammation. If you have an animal that is overweight and struggling with arthritis it can be a vicious cycle to get the weight off. Exercise can be challenging when arthritis is flaring up-yet the more they exercise the better it will be for them down the road. We recommend taking them on short walks more frequently. This will help to prevent over use injury, yet they still acquire a decent amount of daily activity. Swimming is a great and safe way for them to get some exercise as it is considered to be non weight bearing. It will increase their range of motion, stretch their muscles and decrease joint inflammation. Dieting helps as well. Replace some of their food with green beans or carrots. Use carrots, green beans and rice cakes as treats. A combination of diet and exercise is the best approach to weight loss.
Another way we recommend treating arthritis is to use supplements such as: Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM. Glucosamine is a natural chemical compound that is found in the body. Overtime as we age (animals included) those levels decrease. Glucosamine helps keep the cartilage in joints healthy-when the natural glucosamine levels drop this can lead to gradual deterioration of the joints. Chondroitin is a substance that occurs naturally in the connective tissues. When you supplement with higher doses of chondroitin it aids the joints by increasing mobility and decreasing pain. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic form of sulfur that can be used to maintain the body's normal connective tissues. You can find products on the market that contain all three of those supplements for both canines and felines. These products are offered in a chewable tablet, a chewy treat or in a paste or gel form (usually used for our feline friends). These options are safe and can be used indefinitely.
Other options to consider include physical therapy and acupuncture. Physical therapy would use cold and hot laser therapy, underwater treadmills (to the right is a cat using an underwater treadmill),and massage. There are specific exercises that your physical therapist can teach you to do at home with your animal on a regular basis. Braces can be specially designed to help your animal with specific problems.
Lastly, if none of this seems to be helping another option would be to talk to your veterinarian about prescription pain medications. For felines this option is limited due to the fact that there are not many medications on the market that they are able to tolerate. Canines however have a wider variety of medications that we can prescribe to help manage and maintain chronic arthritis, and orthopedic problems. Typically we will use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). However, never give any medication to your animal without first consulting with your veterinarian. If you give them medication at home without first consulting with us you could be giving them something that is toxic to their system without even knowing it. Most of our NSAID's that we offer require what is called a "wash out" period. If you give your dog something like aspirin at home and find that it isn't helping there would be a required "washout" period before we could prescribe medication. Any time we go this route and prescribe medications to manage pain and inflammation it is crucial to do regular blood work. This makes sure that there internal organs are healthy.
If you notice any signs of arthritis in your pet it is always a good idea to bring them to your veterinarian and have them examined. We can help you devise a plan so that you will be better equipped to help your animal and keep them happy, healthy, and comfortable.