Stiff, Sore and Jumping No More: Joint Disease in our Pets
As our pet’s age, we often use the phrases:
“Fido is slowing down, but it’s just because he’s getting older.”
“Happy is stiff when she gets up but once she is moving is great!”
“Figaro can’t jump as high as when he was younger but that’s just normal aging.”
These are all potential signs of osteoarthritis in our pets. Osteoarthritis is a multifactor, progressive, inflammatory disease of the weight bearing joints. The most common joints affected are the carpus (wrist), elbows, hips, stifles (knee) and hock (ankle).
To get a better understanding of what is going on in our pets’ joints, it’s best to look briefly at the normal anatomy and how it is changed by the inflammation. A normal joint (A) consists of cartilage for protection and friction reducing synovial fluid. Inflammation within the joint causes the damage to the cartilage fibres allowing for erosion and bone exposure (B). The boney exposure allows for bone to bone contact and the smooth lubricated surface becomes rough and painful (C).
Treatment of osteoarthritis requires the use of several methods, including weight management and exercise, diet and drug therapy to provide the most benefit for our pets.
Weight management is important for our pets’ health for many reasons. Increased weight directly increases the stress on the joints and can aggravate the disease. Managing weight can be accomplished by feeding the appropriate amount of food for each pet and providing daily exercise. Twice daily feeding is recommended to promote healthy digestion and allows for easy measuring of food given. All foods have a guide on the bag which tells how much food should be fed to a dog or cat of various weights. If you find your pet is overweight we can provide you with diet foods and programs to help get them back to tip top shape. Regular exercise is important in moderation. Too much exercise can cause an increase in signs of discomfort like increased limping. For dogs, running off lead, quick turns and jumping can be problematic. Keeping exercise low impact and for shorter periods is more appropriate. Cats may show discomfort by avoidance such as difficulty jumping to their favourite spot, adding a step to decrease the distance to jump can help. Low sided litter trays may also be required.
Supplements can also be added to your pets’ diet to support joints. Glucosamine is a building block for the cartilage of the joints, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Omega 3 fatty acids are useful for its anti-inflammatory properties; improving coat and skin quality as well as supporting brain functions. They can be added to the current diet or change to a joint support or senior diet which have the optimal quantities built right in.
Joint disease is progressive therefore drug therapy often becomes necessary. There are two main types of drug therapies we prescribe: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disease modifying osteoarthritis drugs (Cartrophen Vet©).
NSAIDs are in the same family as Ibuprofen in that they act to reduce inflammation in the joints and provide pain relief. The drugs we provide have undergone clinical trials for your pets; please do not give your human drugs as they can be harmful. There is a great immediate benefit seen by owners to animals who have been given these drugs. However, long term use of NSAIDs can be stressful on the liver and kidneys, therefore baseline and yearly blood tests are recommended. Cartrophen Vet© is a drug which acts directly on the cartilage within the joints. Clinical trials have found it to be between 60-80% effective in improving clinical signs. It will not provide the dramatic and immediate results of the NSAIDs but can help in relieving the pain and inflammation. Cartophen Vet© does not have the potential systemic side effects seen with NSAIDs.
Please do not hesitate to call or email our hospital if you have any questions about osteoarthritis or if you would like a mobility consultation for your pet. For the month of November, all Senior Wellness Program visits (including examination, blood work, urine analysis, nutrition consult and free trial bag of food based on assessment, veterinary Omega 3 supplements ) are at a discounted rate. For more information please call 705-522-4555 or email [email protected]