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Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of canine joint & musculoskeletal disease.

Signs that you may observe include limping, difficulty in getting up, stiffness along with a reluctance or inability to run, play or climb stairs. It is a chronic and progressive disease and currently there is no cure.

No matter what some manufacturers may claim, they cannot cure this disease. The only cure is to replace the joint.

Our attention is primarily directed at reducing the signs of pain and increasing joint mobility if possible. We want your pet to enjoy life as much as possible.

What is osteoarthritis?

Well, it involves the loss of the smooth surfaces of the joints. Imagine an engine working without the lubrication of the oil within it and the friction that results with everything grinding to a halt. It’s not a pleasant thought.

Many changes occur to the tissues around the joint. The joint capsule becomes inflamed and thickened. The smooth cartilage over the surface of bones within the joint is gradually lost, exposing the bone beneath it. Bone beneath the surface surfaces changes in blood supply and this causes pain. It also affects the strength and quality of that bone. New bone is produced around joints which can contribute to the reduction in flexibility as well as increasing the amount of friction associated with movement.

Arthritis is a slowly progressive condition fuelled by the gradual and constant release of products from damaged tissues. We refer to these as inflammatory mediators. Constant release of these products stimulates the nerves which then transmit the information to the brain and result in what is perceived as pain. Constant stimulation effectively alters the sensitivity of the nerves, so that hypersensitivity results and even small and probably normal movements result in pain.

Muscle can also become involved in this general inflammatory process so that we see the loss of muscle with resulting weakness, and we also see poorly localised muscle pain developing.

How do we treat and manage arthritis?

There are a number of approaches that you can take to help your pet in addition to the use of ‘painkillers’. Anti-inflammatory painkillers reduce pain by reducing inflammation. A number of these are available with different ones suiting different patients and we do sometimes vary them.

These drugs give your dog some freedom from the discomfort but don’t remove the pain competely. They don’t alter the progression of arthritis, although some may do more harm to cartilage than others, hence the selection of agents used. Many of the medications are once daily making it much easier to remember them, and we have one that is once monthly ! Some are tablets,some liquid, and we even have one that is a spray that you spray into the mouth.

Weight Loss

Studies show that an 11-18% body weight reduction significantly reduces lameness and the requirement for painkillers.

We all know it is difficult. It can be accomplished by reducing the amount of the existing diet that you use, and ensuring that those high calorie treats – human food, are basically cut out. If you think of it in terms of a digestive biscuit for the dog being equivalent to a beef burger for ourselves as a treat, it gives you an idea. Many people experience trouble losing weight and try many different diets. Fortunately, the range is not quite so confusing for pets. R/D is a diet that is specifically designed for weight loss and rarely fails.

Effectively, being relatively high fibre, it helps keep your pet satisfied, whilst being balanced in vitamins and minerals for a reduced intake of volume. If you wish to pursue a diet, speak to us so we can get a plan designed for your pet.

‘Light’ diets do help but are not always the best thing for weight loss, more in preventing some more sedentary individuals from gaining weight.

Supplements

There are many supplements on the market. They will usually be used alongside anti-inflammatory painkillers when need. Visit any healthfood shop, or pharmacy and you will see a wide variety available for humans. It must be admitted that precise data is lacking in specifics but they definitely can, and do exhibit an anti-degradative function and influence the way individuals feel.

Seraquin is one of the best of these. A maintenance doseIt will average around £15 per month for a 30kg dog and evidence is available that it may be just as effective as anti-inflammatories after 2-3 months. We also stock a couple of less costly supplements to give you a chance to try them without too great a cost. Yumove will come in around £6 per month.An alternative approach with supplements is the use of injections which modify joint fluid. Cartrophen is usually given weekly for four consecutive weeks, roughly once per annum, although may be used as often as an owner or vet observes is beneficial.

Diet

Purina and Hill’s produce diets containing an omega-3 fatty acid called EPA and this has been shown to be effective in reducing lameness, both when observed by orthopaedic specialists, and by owners. Many specialists have declared that the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acid may be one of the most important findings for many years. It also contains a substance called l-carnitene which can help with both weight loss and weight control.

We also have a selection of Omega 3 & 6 Fatty acid oil supplements.

Alternatives

Homeopathy consultations can be arranged at the surgery with Mike Spicer, a partner here at Wright & Morten until 2008,and Mark Tabachnik, one of the equine clinicians, is available for acunpuncture. We can also provide contact details for local registered animal physiotherapists who can provide help to get your pet more mobile.

There are a vast number of other treatments such as copper collars, magnetic collars and a host of natural remedies such as Seaweed extracts and Devil’s claw. It is rare that anything will make matters worse so they are frequently worth consideration.

Exercise

Everything may be good in moderation and the same is true of exercise. It is good for weight control, mental stimulation and to enjoy life. However, it can easily be overdone and in trying to please us, it is easy for our pets to overdo it, only to feel the effects later when the adrenaline surge has settled. Ask for more specific advice or to help tailor regimes for your pet. Lead exercise is better on the whole, or at least avoiding running, jumping, with lots of twisting and turning. Swimming is tremendously beneficial, but if done in a river or lake, make sure they don’t get chilled and cold.

We all want your pet to enjoy life as much as it possibly can. There are many options in the management of arthritis and we hope to be able to give you the best advice and treatment to ensure everyday is the best it can be.

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