If you suspect your pet has joint pain (arthritis) a visit to the vet can help identify if it is truly a joint concern, or soft tissue, or something else entirely. It is always better to know exactly what the problem is, so it may be managed most appropriately. To confirm if they do have joint disease, radiography is often the best tool to accurately assess degenerative joint changes in dogs. In cats, the main features of Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) are changes in behavior and lifestyle that develop gradually, which owners tend to interpret as effects of old age. There can be a mismatch between radio-graphic findings and the pain level or signs experienced by the pet or seen by the pet parent. With cats, while radiography is a helpful tool, regular (annual to semi-annual) physical examinations are the most important part of maintaining comfort in your aging cat.
Sometimes a medication trial is helpful when there is uncertainty whether an animal is suffering from DJD. A trial of pain medication, followed by a recheck one week later, can be useful to reassess the level of comfort. Generally, there will be an appreciable improvement in interaction with the family, and a return to old behaviors like jumping, or playfulness.
The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in medications and supplements for arthritic pets.
- Analgesics. These can make a great difference in quality of life. Arthritis means pain, so we need treat the pain.
- Anti-inflammatorydrugs. Blood work should be checked in intervals of 6 months or fewer to monitor changes to kidney and liver function as some patients will be sensitive to these.
- Exercise programs. Regular moderate exercise is good for all joints, and “weekend warrior syndrome” is very difficult to recover from.
- Intraarticularinjections. These treatments include stem cells, platelet-enriched plasma, hyaluronic acid, and steroid injections.
- Low-levellaser therapy & acupuncture. These alternative treatments are a growing trend, and research exists in the literature.
- Nutraceuticals& therapeutic foods. Omega 3s, chondroitin, glucosamine, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) are common options. Prescription therapeutic foods for dogs and cats with mobility issues are often helpful.
- PhysicalRehabilitation. Just as rehab is helpful for humans, so it is for our pets. Exercises can be targeted to help certain areas of concern, and intensity adjusted with progress.
- Surgical management. In some cases, pets benefit from procedures such as total hip replacement or others.
- Weightmanagement. Avoiding weight gain is critical to managing arthritis symptoms.
Here at Edgemont Veterinary Clinic, we can help with all of the modalities described above!
Please let us know if you have questions about your pet’s comfort, or any of the therapies mentioned above.