Arthritis in senior dogs and cats is a very common condition and is often quite debilitating. It may result from obesity, nutritional deficiencies, injuries, and genetic disorders. Common genetic disorders include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and osteochondrosis (a defect in the cartilage lining the joints).
Arthritis is suspected when your pet has difficulty getting up or lying down, limbs, or becomes fatigued easily. It is very important that your veterinarian makes the proper diagnosis to pick the best treatment plan. A thorough examination will detect swollen joints, poor range of motion, muscle atrophy, and crepitus (crackling) in the joints. Radiographs are one definitive way to determine if your pet is suffering from arthritis. Radiographs detect bony changes in the joint such as bone spurs. Some joint changes are not visible on radiographs and an MRI or arthroscopy is necessary to make the diagnosis.
Obesity is one of the leading causes of arthritis and is an all too common problem with our animal companions. This is usually the result of feeding high carbohydrate commercial foods and lack of adequate exercise. Most commercial pet foods contain nutritionally inadequate fillers such as wheat, corn, rice, and soy. While these foods provide easily utilizable energy, it is too much for our couch potato pets. Carrying this excess weight leads to tendon and ligament weakness, arthritis, and contributing to diabetes and organ dysfunction. Other factors contributing to obesity are feeding high carbohydrate treats and certain medications. Prednisone is a steroid, and it is a commonly prescribed medication for allergies which causes the body to burn its muscle as a fuel source leading to less muscle and more body fat.
Trauma is also a common contributing factor in the development of arthritis. It is often the result of what appeared to be an insignificant injury. These minor injuries add up and can set your pet up for future arthritis. This makes it important that these injuries be addressed when they occur.
Treatments include improving the diet, proper exercise, nutritional supplements, acupuncture, herbal therapy, cold laser therapy, homeopathy, and chiropractic care. While there are conventional NonSteroidal Anti- inflammatories (NSAIDS) for pain, these may cause kidney disease and liver disease with long-term use and these organs must be evaluated every 6 months for pets taking these medications. Examples of these NSAIDs include Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox, and Metacam. These medications should be used only in the most severe cases and at the lowest dose which provides relief. These may often be discontinued with proper supplementation and lifestyle changes.
There are many nutritional supplements available to support repair and maintenance of the joints. Many dogs and cats benefit from taking a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement. Green Lipped Mussels have been found to improve arthritis symptoms, as well. A high-quality fish oil containing Omega 3 oil and Tumeric appear to help in many cases because they both reduce inflammation. Adequan injections help some pets dramatically and don’t appear to help others. Adequan is given as intramuscular injections twice a week for 3-4 weeks and should not exceed 8 dosages. Adequan strengthens cartilage and promotes cartilage healing as well as blocking inflammation. There are also many herbal combinations which can help your pet but these should be prescribed by a veterinarian with advanced training in herbal medicine.
Acupuncture, cold laser therapy and chiropractic therapy are an important part of the treatment plan for joint disease. While chiropractic adjustments cannot cure arthritis, they will help the pet be more comfortable. Chiropractic adjustments with acupuncture, cold laser therapy, and proper supplementation often provide a much higher quality of life for our arthritic pets. Because the have less discomfort, they can exercise more which prevents further deterioration.
Numerous scientific studies have shown acupuncture to be effective for reducing pain. By causing the release of endorphins into the bloodstream of the patient, acupuncture provides immediate pain relief. Acupuncture also causes increased blood flow to the affected area allowing the body to naturally heal itself. In a German study (The GERAC study) 300,000 patients with chronic back pain, knee arthritis, and migraine headaches were evaluated to compare acupuncture with the conventional treatments of steroids, physiotherapy, and other pain medications. The results showed that acupuncture was twice as effective in reducing pain as the conventional treatments.
Class IV Cold Laser therapy acts by increasing the release of endorphins, improving blood vessel formation, and promoting collagen synthesis and skeletal repair. The anti-inflammatory effects of laser therapy are similar to those of pharmacological agents for treating pain. This non-drug option is a safe alternative to prescription medications that have the potential for serious adverse effects, such as liver and kidney disease, especially when taken long-term. Response to laser therapy is usually seen within four sessions.
By providing optimum nutrition, adequate exercise, proper supplementation and holistic therapies such as acupuncture, you can minimize your pet’s degenerative joint changes and help them live a longer, happier life.
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