Are you Arthritis Aware?
January is Arthritis Awareness Month at AlphaPet!
Sadly, many pets develop this painful condition without their owners noticing and end up suffering in silence, often needlessly.
As yet no one has patented the elixir for eternal youth. So as the years go by many of us, including our furry friends, typically need to contend with at best reduced flexibility, but more often significant stiffness and pain in our joints. Dogs over the age of 7 years are most often at risk.
What is osteoarthritis?
Joints are complex structures composed of bone, the cartilage which lines the joint, the ligaments which hold the bones together, and the tendons with attached muscle which pull on the bone and causes them to move. Lubrication is provided by a viscous substance known as synovial fluid. In osteoarthritis most or all of these components become involved in the disease process, which results from inflammatory and general ageing processes. Other factors can play a part in younger animals.
How do we recognise this in dogs?
Signs are often subtle, although an unexpected twist or turn may give sudden symptoms of lameness, back or neck pain. Walks may not be relished as before. There may be a reduced range of joint movement or a reluctance to climb stairs, stretch or get up in the morning after rest. They may not be able to jump up as they used to. There may even be signs of being off colour or bad tempered.
What can we do to help?
The first thing to say is don't ignore these signs. They won't be going away. They will only progress and the longer they are left without treatment, the worse they will be.
There is a lot you can do in the first instance, without necessarily involving us vets!
Obesity is all too common and makes osteoarthritis much, much worse (as well as exacerbating many other conditions). Take a good look at your dog's weight. If you aren't sure, AlphaPet provides free nurse clinic weight checks and can advise on diets that assist with weight reduction.
Concentrating on calorie reduction wins all round - savings made on volume of food purchased and a more comfortable and happier friend. If your dog starts pestering you for food, you might satisfy your pet more by interacting with them for treats that have been factored into your calorie counting mission. The savings made might also help towards the cost of medication, if required, as well as reducing the amount of medication required.
There are many so-called joint supplements available which may generally help joint lubrication and cartilage health. By all means try them for a few weeks but if they aren't working then further advice is needed.
Aim for frequent, shorter periods of exercise. Consider hydrotherapy (swimming, underwater treadmills) as this reduces concussive impact on the joints as well as encouraging joint movement.
Passive physiotherapy can be extremely helpful and can usually be performed at home. Nurses at AlphaPet can give advice techniques that may help
If you feel you have tried as much as you can to help your dog, then medication(s) are likely to become necessary. These often provide a significant improvement to your pet's general well being and quality of life. New medicines are continually being developed, and those prescribed will depend on various factors including age and general health.
They usually start with a standard dosing regime which is then adjusted to individual response.
If you have any queries, please do make an appointment either for an initial check and discussion with one of our veterinary nurses, or with one of our vets.
Alternatively, check out our Arthritis Awareness page and fill in the free Arthritis Assessment Form to see if your pet is suffering from arthritis.
Whatever you do, don't let them suffer unnecessarily in silence!