OSTEOARTHRITIS IN DOGS: a recap
OK, now it’s time to take a look at osteoarthritis in dogs. Happily this is a well-recognised condition and vets and researchers around the world have put a lot of time and effort into determining how we can minimize pain and maximize quality of life in dogs who suffer from arthritis.
Firstly, a quick recap of the symptoms of arthritis in dogs: • limping/limb stiffness especially after rest; • trouble rising; • reduced playing; • reluctance to go for walks/walk as far; • increased sleeping. And now, a 7 step plan of action 1) ANTICIPATION Large dogs, those with imperfectly aligned limbs (bowed/knock kneed), dogs that have had previous joint surgeries, overweight or extremely active dogs are the ones that we most commonly see with joint problems. It is important to correct what you can and start joint protectants (nutriceuticals or pentosan polysulfate) before you notice symptoms of arthritis. 2) NURSING Consider what you do to minimise your own aches and pains before you reach for the medicine chest. Soft bedding, extra layers, rubbing aching joints and applying warmth to stiff joints will help your dog feel more comfortable and get moving, especially on cold mornings. 3) WEIGHT LOSS This is one of the most important aspects of arthritis not only because reduced load on joints equates to reduced wear but because fat releases a number of inflammatory mediators which affect joint tissues and exacerbate pain. Even a 10% reduction in body weight improves both subjective and objective measures of mobility in dogs. 4) EXERCISE There are two negative cycles that kick in when animals are affected by osteoarthritis.
Reluctance to bear weight on painful limbs leads to muscle wastage which increases the load on and wear of the joint which leads to more pain and increased reluctance to bear weight on the joint.
Reduced mobility from pain leads to weight gain and increased load on joints which increases pain and further reduces mobility.
Regular, low impact exercise can help to reduce the impact of this cycle –our recommendations in order of preference are;
swimming (for older animals who find this difficult there are lifejackets available);
walking in water;
walking on soft surfaces such as sand; and
slowly walking up gentle inclines.
5) NUTRACEUTICALS Any food based product with benefits above and beyond their nutritional value is deemed a nutraceutical. There are so many products on the market that claim to be beneficial for arthritis but unfortunately there is very little unbiased, qualitative research to support many of them.
6) PHARMACEUTICALS There are three groups of medication that we rely on to provide relief from arthritis pain: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDs), Disease Modifying Osteoarthritic Drugs (DMOADs) and medications that purely relieve pain (Tramadol, Gabapentin, Codeine).
7) ALTERNATE THERAPIES There are lots of alternate therapies available for the treatment of arthritis. In our experience the the most effective of these are physiotherapy and hydrotherapy.
To read in detail about the pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals we use to manage arthritis, please click on the link below.