Those Old Creaky Bones

What is arthritis? It is a degeneration of the joint that often occurs because of aging and/or injury. In our pets, we recognize stiffness when they first get up from sleep. Often this stiffness will work out when the pet has been up and around for a while. There can be pain or lameness that is often worse after rest.

An exam and history, sometimes coupled with x-rays, are often all we need to diagnose arthritis in your pet. Depending on the severity of the signs, and the time of the year, a variety of treatments are helpful.

First, if your pet is “spoiled” and overweight, then weight loss is indicated because the increase strain on the joints increases the trauma and keeps the cycle of degeneration and inflammation in the joints going. Gentle, low-impact exercise such as walking or swimming is also of great help to improving the condition of those joints. Sometimes we, as your pet’s doctor, will check on the status of the thyroid gland. A low thyroid will cause your pet (mostly dogs) to gain weight without really eating that much.

Another helpful supplement is joint protectants such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Science has shown that these two supplements, acting as building blocks to joint fluids, act to slow down the degeneration of the joints. Many of the diets available have these ingredients in them. Over-the-counter medications are available. But remember: not all joint supplements are the same. There really is very little regulation as to how bioavailable these ingredients must be. In other words, it’s hard to know if your pet will absorb and utilize these ingredients (this is true for us as well). Cosequin (a veterinary product) was actually tested to show that it was indeed available and did make its way into the pet’s joints. This doesn’t mean it is the only one that does, but if you try a supplement and don’t see improvement in your pet’s movement, you might try a different one, or try Cosequin. You’ll have to give it a minimum of 6-8 weeks before you can see any affect.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also good improving the inflammation and pain of sore joints.

If these more natural supplements are not keeping your pet out of pain, we will then advise the use of NSAIDS or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Metacam and Previcox. Often these anti-inflammatory/pain medications are used only during those days when the pet is having a bad time getting around, and sometimes they are a daily medication. If we use them long-term in your pet, we recommend blood screening every 6-12 months to access the internal affects these drugs can have on the liver.

In the next newsletter, I would like to address the difference between using the above mentioned NSAIDS, and those over-the-counter NSAIDS, such as aspirin and ibuprofen . The over-the-counter medications can be more harmful then helpful and sometimes dangerous.