OVERVIEW OF ARTHRITIS TREATMENT FOR DOGS
BY DR. KARI TROTSKY
PEACEFUL ENDINGS FOR PETS
As pets age, they gradually lose their mobility, just as people do. As with people, keeping your pet active with daily walks, and at an ideal weight, will lessen the load on the joints and maintain muscle mass, which will help with mobility. But, some pets develop problems at a younger age that affects them when they become seniors. For instance, some pets can genetically develop hip dysplasia by 2 years old, some rupture ligaments in their knees requiring surgery, some breeds are prone to weight gain making weight loss difficult, and some can even break bones requiring plates and screws to repair. All of this can cause osteoarthritis, (also known as degenerative joint disease – DJD) which causes pain and instability in joints and the spine. This, in turn, makes pets less mobile. This can be evidenced by observing them having difficulty rising from a laying position, hesitance or reluctance to go up or down stairs, or unwillingness to jump like they once did. The good news is that there are many things we can do for osteoarthritis in pets nowadays.
The first line of treatment are medications. Medications can include combinations of joint supplements, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, pain-relieving medicine, neuropathic pain-relieving medicine, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, and herbal anti-inflammatories.
Besides, or in addition to medications, are other modalities such as acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, laser therapy, physical rehabilitation, therapeutic swimming, aromatic oils, reiki, injections to help repair and increase cartilage, dietary changes, and even stem cell therapy.
But, one overlooked area is a lift harness. These are harnesses with handles that can be customized whether your pet has front leg, shoulder, neck or upper spinal pain, or rear leg, lower spine or hip pain – or combinations of both areas. The harness allows you to help the dog up from a lying position, help the dog with stairs, help lift your pet into a vehicle, and help support your pet’s weight so he can go on walks again. Instead of watching your pet struggle to stand up, you can easily lift him to decrease some of the stress on the compromised joints. But, the best part is that you can prolong a pet’s quality of life for a longer period of time instead of opting for euthanasia right away. The harness recommended by most veterinarians and rehab specialists is the “Help ‘Em Up Harness”, found at http://helpemup.com/. I have no connection to this company other than I bought the harness, hip lift, and walking strap for my dog and it’s been a game changer in her quality of life.
As dogs age, don’t let them silently suffer with osteoarthritis. There are things that can be done no matter what your budget is. If a dog has difficulty standing up, or begins to limp, those are signs of pain. If there was no pain, then your dog would pop right up and walk with a normal gait. Let your veterinarian decide if your dog is painful. We have been trained extensively to determine pain levels in pets, since they can’t tell us, and the knowledge we have now has increased even from just 5 years ago. There is always something we can do for your aging pets to make them more comfortable.
As a parting note, if you have a senior dog and your floors are not carpeted, buy carpet runners and make paths for your dog to get around. By just doing this one thing, you will see an increase in your pet’s ability to navigate through the house. The cheaper ones come on a roll you can cut to the proper length that you can find at home warehouse stores, or you can choose more stylish ones, if desired.