As your pet ages, various health problems can arise. Sometimes the problems are very serious and require immediate veterinary attention, while others may go unnoticed or develop slowly enough for your pet to adapt to them. The good news is that medical care of problems such as arthritis or djd (degenerative joint disease) has advanced rapidly in recent years. We have a variety of treatment modalities to keep your pet comfortable.
Learning to recognize the pain of djd is the first step in treatment for your arthritic pet. All animals try to hide their pain, and seldom complain until they are in extreme discomfort. Early treatment of pain and inflammation helps control the progression of djd and allows your pet to remain comfortable longer. Listed below are some signs of pain.
Abnormal posture- prefers lying to sitting, sitting in abnormal position, frequent shifts in position.
Vocalizing- RARE- end stage- crying, whining, groaning, or quiet.
Abnormal Gait- Limping, stiffness- especially after resting, trouble getting up, lagging behind on walks.
Breathing- excess panting
Activity- Loss of interest in normal activities, reluctance to climb stairs, restless, trembling. Cats- inability to jump on surfaces, missing the litter box.
Grooming- looks unkempt, licking or chewing one area compulsively
Factors that contribute to djd include injury, obesity, normal aging, excessive physical activity, or congenital (hip/elbow dysplasia). The most commonly affected joints are the hips, elbows, knees and carpi.
Treatment of djd involves multiple components.
1- Weight loss if your pet is overweight! Carrying extra weight worsens the djd and increases pain, decreases mobility.
2- Exercise- frequent, small walks. Avoid rapid bursts of energy such as ball or frisbee chasing.
3- Dogs- avoid slippery surfaces and stairs. Use throw rugs or runners, ramps in place of stairs. Cats-use lower litterboxes, ramps to get onto windows and favorite resting places.
4-Dasuquin Advanced- this nutraceutical is safe and effective for many of our senior pets in the early to moderate phases of djd. It is a chewable for dogs, and a sprinkle capsule for cats. Given daily, this supplement provides a guaranteed amount of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, which increase lubrication and joint fluid and increase mobility. It also contains a natural pain medication, ASU, which decreases inflammation and provides safe, natural pain relief.
The over the counter joint medications are not recommended due to their lack of pain medication and no standard formulation or guarantee of ingredients. Over 80% of over the counter formulations were found to have no active ingredients! Addition of glucosamine in the food, while not harmful, does not provide high enough levels to be helpful.
5- Pain medications. We use two different kinds. For dogs we can use non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)such as Metacam, galliprant or Previcoxx. We also have an NSAID for cats- Onsior. These medications are very effective for pain and inflammation, but do have potential effects on the liver, kidneys, or stomach. We require baseline bloodwork and repeat bloodwork every 6 months to ensure safety while on one of these products. We do not recommend using aspirin, as the pain control is weak and the risk of side effects (gi ulceration, kidney disease) is high. We often use NSAIDs with Dasuquin.
6- Injectable Adequan- this injection helps provide additional glucosamine and increases viscosity of the joint fluid while decreasing inflammation in the joint. It is given as a series of six injections twice a week for three weeks then monthly or as needed.
7- Gabapentin- thought to help with neuropathic and orthopedic pain. It is relatively inexpensive and safe and has a large dose range.
If your pet demonstrates any of these signs described above, please make an appointment so that we can help ease your pet's pain. Don't wait until your pet loses too much muscle from chronic disuse of the limb, as treatment at this point is less lifely to be beneficial.