“Just a Bit Stiff” Arthritis and Golden Oldies – Dogs

Just a bit of Arthritis..

We have all heard or even said this about our pets. “Getting on a bit.. “Getting a bit slow..” and usually what we mean is that, there is nothing to be done, “Just old age”. Well there is good new and bad news for you. Read on ..

The Bad News

A dogs that is stiff after a period of time spent lying down for example in the morning, or who limps on one or more legs on an ongoing basis, is a dog that is showing two major signs of arthritis. This is not the same as “Just old Age”. Why is it not the same? Because arthritis is painful. When your dog limps it is because that leg is causing pain to use. When he is sore to rise in the morning, it is due to aches in his joints. Joints do not get stiff without aches and pains accompanying that stiffness

The Good News

The Great News is that pet owners can do a lot to minimise the discomfort of arthritis , and at the same time you and your dog can resume enjoying some of your old activities together, getting more out of life and even living longer as a result

What Can You Do?

Understanding: What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that occurs within one or more joint, such as the knee (stifle), hips, elbows or wrists and sometimes the spine. Inflammation means the usually smooth lining of the joint is red, roughened and thickened, and the joint fluid is thick and stodgy instead of smooth and silky. If you can visualise what is happening inside your dogs joints, that will help. It can happen in young and older dogs.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

Getting your pet diagnosed with arthritis can be during a visit to your local vet. An xray is always useful confirm the diagnosis and rule out other issues as well as assessing the degree of inflammation in the joint especially for younger dogs with early onset. Arthritis can be managed, not cured. But remember this is not the same as saying there is nothing to be done! Getting help early on can vastly improve your dogs quality of life and how long they live.

Management at Home

  • Weight management. A healthy weight is essential for any pet suffering with arthritis and has a bigger effect than any other measure.
  • Exercise – shorter more frequent walks are always better for arthritic joints
  • Living Aids such as floor mats and ladders into the car to minimise injury and strain to joints from jumping up and down and an easily accessible bed that ensures a good cushioning between the dog and the floor.
Extra weight (on the left) means a lot more strain on sore joints, as well as fat cells adding to general inflammation in the body.

Veterinary Medications

If your pet is in pain, they require pain relief and this will be prescribed by your vet. There are a wide variety of medications available from injections to tablets that both act as pain killers and to actively reduce inflammation, your vet will help you find the one most suitable for your pet which is safe , effective and affordable longterm.

Most pets take these medications longterm so it is important to attend check ups with your pet to ensure that the medication is at the correct dosage and is working as well as it should be, as well as turning in urine or blood samples to make sure the medication is safe to continue.

Supplements and Which Ones to Choose?

Giving your dog Omega Oils is scientifically proven to work to reduce the effects of arthritis in the joint. Dogs require a very high dose and as such oils developed especially for dogs are recommended rather than human versions. Chondroitin and Glucosamine have no evidence behind them of any benefit to pets, they are expensive and added to many joint supplements, so are best avoided in pets.

Alternative Treatments

Acupuncture is proven to help to reduce pain from arthritis in older dogs and is recommended by pain and anaesthesia specialists accross the UK. There is limited availability in Ireland currently. Other treamments such as laser therapy, hydrotherapy and turmeric paste can yield results for some pets, but only under the guidance of a vet and as an additional, not as a sole treatment.

Article by Mairead Kilbride MVB Sept 2020

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