Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs. It affects 35% of dogs of all ages and 80% of dogs over the age of 8 years old. If kept comfortable, dogs can live with arthritis for years. Arthritis is a progressive condition; therefore, dogs with arthritis can show worsening symptoms in later life stages. Most arthritic pain is caused by bone rubbing against bone due to loss of cartilage within the joints. Several treatment modalities can be used to slow this progression, lubricate the joints, and continue comfort and longevity for our beloved canine companions.
Degenerative joint disease also known as osteoarthritis, is a lot more common in cats than you would think. Veterinary researchers estimate that 90% of cats over the age of 10 years old are affected by arthritis in some way. With 45% of all cats being affected with arthritis. Our feline friends reveal arthritis in subtle ways such as changes in mobility, gait, jumping, stair use, activity level, social behavior, play and hunting behavior, or posture; increased time spent resting, or increased vocalizing; less time spent grooming or wanting to be handled.
Things you as a pet owner can do:
1- Diet- Focus on a balanced, healthy diet at all life stages that promotes a healthy, lean body mass. Weight loss can be particularly helpful in arthritic pets if they’re overweight or obese. Appropriate balanced diets should be discussed with your veterinarian based on examination, breed, age, laboratory values, etc. Feline diets are tailored to their living environment, age, body mass, and exercise requirements. This is something that should be discussed at the time of physical examination. Maintaining a lean body confirmation through proper nutrition and feeding practices is the most important cornerstone of effective osteoarthritis management and prevention. It has been shown that thinner pets have less arthritis and a longer life expectancy! There’s no cure for OA, but there is a lot you can do to slow its progression, reduce pain, and maintain or improve function.
2- Routine exams- Bring your pet in for a routine physical examination to allow observation of changes consistent with osteoarthritis. This allows us to intervene earlier, slowing the progression of the disease.
3-Observe your pet- Monitor your pet at home for the subtle signs of osteoarthritis. The below checklists can be a helpful way to assess your pet’s pain status and comfort:
Ways that we at TCAH can help your pet feel better and move better.
1-Diet- Prescription joint formulas such as Hill’s joint diet (j/d), Purina Joint Mobility (JM), etc. are balanced diets that are readily available to all healthy adult animals via our website at myvetstore.com or purinavetdirect.com.
2-Mobility supplements- These medications are designed to promote lubrication in the joint space, ease mobility, and slow the progression of disease. They often come in a delicious, treat form. These include daily joint chews such as Movoflex Advanced and Dasuquin Advanced for our canine patients and Feline Cosequin for our feline patients.
3-Antinol/Lyprinol: a natural anti-inflammatory supplement- A lipid-rich extract from fresh stabilized mussel powder. It has shown significant anti-inflammatory (AI) activity given therapeutically and prophylactically. This is a natural way to help our pets have pain control without non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Other organs benefit from these medications besides the bones and joints including the kidneys, cardiovascular system, and the skin. This medication is beneficial and safe for both feline and canine patients.
4-Therapeutic Laser- One benefit of laser therapy for arthritic dogs is pain reduction. The laser light reduces pain signals transmitted by nerve cells and decreases nerve sensitivity, providing relief from the discomfort associated with arthritis. Some benefits of veterinary laser therapy are the release of endorphins and vasodilation. This can increase blood flow ultimately increasing oxygen and speeding up healing and allowing the muscles to relax. The frequency of treatments varies depending on 2600 Bobcat Boulevard, Suite 100 Trophy Club, Texas, 76262 Ph: (682) 237-4002 Fax: (682) 237-4003 Email: email@example.com the disease being treated, and whether it is a chronic or acute issue. Typically, treatments are two to three times per week for two to three weeks. The frequency of treatment is then reduced depending on the diagnosed condition. Most chronic arthritis patients are maintained with treatment once weekly whereas flare-ups and acute injuries benefit from treatment three times weekly.
5-Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)- NSAIDs are a once to twice daily oral medication that inhibit the production of inflammatory proteins (prostaglandins) via the cyclooxygenase (COX) pathway. Reducing inflammation within the joint and surrounding structures helps to reduce pain. NSAIDs are often used in acute flare-ups of osteoarthritis to provide quick relief for pets. At TCAH, we typically recommend updating labwork prior to prescribing NSAIDs as the major adverse effects include impaired kidney function as well as gastrointestinal signs such as ulceration, vomiting, and diarrhea. Pets with adequate kidney and liver function are at minimal risk for developing these complications, but pets who suffer from pre-existing kidney or liver disease may not be healthy candidates for NSAID administration. Because of these adverse effects, we try to avoid long-term NSAID use in pets whose arthritis may be adequately managed with other therapies such as Librela or acupuncture. However, NSAIDs are a crucial component in managing the acutely painful arthritic pet in the meantime. Having a discussion with your veterinarian before starting NSAIDs is important to provide safe pain relief.
6-Acupuncture- Acupuncture supports osteoarthritis management by helping control pain and inflammation while restoring mobility. Multiple techniques can be used in acupuncture treatments including dry needling, aquapuncture, electro-acupuncture, and laser acupuncture. The physiologic effects of acupuncture are due to the stimulation of endogenous substances such as beta-endorphins, cortisol, and serotonin, with an increase in blood flow and a decrease in muscle spasms. It causes stimulation of the nervous system leading to the release of endogenous substances. Acupuncture is an excellent, natural way to keep your pets feeling great.
7-Librela- Librela is a once-a-month injection that specifically targets the inflammatory mediators associated with canine osteoarthritis. Librela is an excellent pain-relief option for pets who may have concurrent diseases that prevent them from being able to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Unlike NSAIDs, it is not contraindicated in patients who may have compromised kidney function, and it is not harmful to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Librela is considered the “gold standard” of OA management and should be administered once a month, every month by your veterinary clinic to continue to be effective.
8-Other pain control options- Gabapentin and Tramadol are focused on blocking the pain pathways. It is an affordable way to address the pain but does not have any benefits in slowing the progression of osteoarthritis or improving mobility. These medications should be used in later stages or for acute injury. They can cause sedation if used at higher doses.
9. Low-impact exercises- Exercises such as water therapy (underwater treadmill, simply swimming in your pool (with supervision of course!)) and short leash walks are another aspect of management for canine osteoarthritis. Low-impact exercises help keep the joints lubricated without causing excessive strain on the shoulders, knees, and hips. Exercise also helps to keep your pet at a healthy body condition, which as mentioned above, is significantly correlated to reducing strain on your pet’s overall health and improving mobility.