Osteoarthritis Therapy for Dogs
Osteoarthritis mainly affects dogs in their middle to elderly years, but it affects around 1 in 5 dogs aged 12 months or older. So if your dog doesn’t jump to greet you when you return home, or if your cat doesn’t appear to be interested in playing with his or her favourite toys anymore, they may be affected by osteoarthritis. This is a joint disease which slowly erodes the joint and eats away at the joint fluid, beginning a destructive cycle of inflammation which leads to pain, making movement difficult. If your pet has a genetic predisposition to any abnormalities in their joints (hip dysplasia, bowed legs or cruciate ligament injuries) your pet can start experiencing osteoarthritis at a much earlier age.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. But there is a great deal that you, with your vet, can do to reduce the severity of symptoms and stop the progression of joint degradation.
The early warning signs of osteoarthritis are:
- Difficulty walking, climbing stairs, getting in and out of a litter box, difficulty standing from a lying position
- not playing or exercising as much as before
- ‘bunny hopping’ with hindlimbs, especially for dogs
- failing to groom themselves, for cats
- failing to use the cat scratching post, for cats
- swollen joints, warm to the touch
- favouring a warm and soft spot to lie down or a hard, cold area to lie down.
- slowness in getting up, getting stiff joints especially in cold weather
If your pet has any or all of these symptoms, don’t attribute it to ‘slowing down’ or ‘old age’. These early warning signs will not disappear without veterinary intervention, and it can be heartbreaking to see your pet in such pain,we can help them feel like a puppy again!
So what is it that you can do to help this?
- Weight control. The best way to relieve pain on joints is by reducing the amount of pressure on them. Decreasing the weight on joints will make it easier for your pet to move around.
- Exercise is essential as it contributes to strengthening the muscles that support the joints, helping to get arthritic pets mobile again. However, the best exercise for your arthritic pet is low to moderate amounts of low impact exercise, such as swimming and leashed walking. Be aware that your pet’s pain levels will vary daily, and keep exercise routines flexible to account for this. If your pet is more painful than usual, take a break from the exercise routine for a few days, until your pet feels more mobile again.
- Take your pet to see your vet. They can help with painkillers, anti inflammatories, nutraceuticals or acupuncture.
- Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs “NSAIDs” (Meloxicam, Rimadyl, Previcox) are commonly prescribed for reducing pain of osteoarthritis. The treatment does not cure the condition, but it relieves the inflammation and the swelling around the joints and decreases pain significantly. Newer NSAIDs are very effective, however yearly blood tests are recommended for long-term use of NSAIDs to ensure the drug isn’t having side effects.
- Injectable medication (Zydax) are a series of injections which are given at weekly intervals, they provide pain relief and help to protect the cartilage in the joint from further degradation.
- Nutraceuticals (Sasha’s Blend, Joint Guard, Glyde, Osteosupport) contain glycoaminoglycans (GAGs), which are the building blocks for healthy joints and cartilage. They are not sole treatments for the condition, however they are very effective when used in conjunction with NSAIDs. A combination of Green Lipped Mussel (Sasha’s Blend) and Chondroitin and Glucosamine (Flex, Joint Guard, Osteosupport) are especially effective, and is available also in a combined formula (Glyde).
- Acupuncture can be performed by a veterinary acupuncurist to alleviate pain in joints, over several appointments, and it may take a few days for your pet to respond to treatment.
- Joint Care Nutrition is provided by the leading veterinary care nutrition companies, Hills, Royal Canin, and Eukanuba. These products are formulated with joint care in mind, with nutraceuticals built in to the formula, plus L-Carnitine to help keep weight down, taking the pressure off joints. Joint formula products are available in canine and feline formulas.
Zydax is a drug which acts as an anti inflammatory and helps to protect the cartilage and slow the progression of joint degeneration. The zydax program is a course of injections given weekly for a minimum of four weeks, and after that, the program can be individualised to your pets needs, where one injection can give pain relief for up to 6 weeks. (Our client’s say that after just one course, their pet is running around like a puppy again, getting back to ‘their old self’.