Arthritis is a term that refers to the inflammation of the joints within the body. Many people think that arthritis is a purely human condition, but our pets can experience it too, and it is a particularly common problem amongst dogs. Unfortunately, arthritis in canines causes just as much pain and suffering as it does in humans. This can be heartbreaking for owners who are watching their pets deal with the pain, discomfort, and stiffness that is characteristic of the condition. Fortunately, there are some treatments that can help you to help your pet, by reducing their symptoms and making their day to day life more manageable. Here’s what you need to know about pet arthritis, including some of the key treatments available.
Within the joints, the bone surfaces are normally covered with a very thin and smooth later of cartilage. This is lubricated with a small amount of fluid that enables the surfaces to glide smoothly over one another so that the joint can move easily and without discomfort. However, in pets with arthritis, the cartilage within the joint changes, causing friction to occur when the bone surfaces rub together. Unsurprisingly, this is painful for your pet. The friction also triggers the growth of new bone around the joint, which in turn makes the joint stiffer, limiting movement.
Although arthritis may be more common in older age, it can develop much younger, particularly in those breeds that are susceptible to it. These include larger breeds such as Labrador retrievers, German Shepherds, Saint Bernards, Rottweilers and Alaskan Mamalutes.
There are a number of symptoms that are indicative of arthritis in pets. These include:
Popping and cracking sounds when the joint moves
Unwillingness to walk, jump or climb stairs
Unusual weight gain or loss of appetite
Muscle wastage around the joints
If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it is advisable to arrange an appointment with your veterinarian for an assessment.
Although some owners will happily give their pet pain medication to help with their arthritis, there is a range of extremely effective and valuable, drug-free alternatives that we can support you with, here at Elizabeth Veterinary Clinic in Roselle, NJ.
Acupuncture is a well-known form of human alternative therapy, but it has also proven to be very successful in helping pets with various health issues including arthritis. Acupuncture stems from an ancient Chinese practice in which dozens of ultra-fine needles are inserted into your pet’s body at pre-determined locations. Contrary to what you might think, it isn’t painful since the needles are so fine. However, by placing these needles it is believed to trigger your pet’s body to produce natural pain-relieving endorphins, serotonin which helps to alleviate pain, and other natural substances which can reduce the symptoms associated with arthritis.
Also known as hydrotherapy, water therapy is another popular non-invasive treatment for pets with arthritis. It comes in several forms, including swimming, underwater treadmills, and whirlpools. It works as a form of low-impact exercise that your pet can undertake without putting too much pressure on their joints. Water is also shown to have therapeutic effects such as boosting circulation, increasing lymphatic drainage so that toxins leave your pet’s body more quickly and effectively, and aids digestion.
If your pet is carrying extra weight, the symptoms of their arthritis will be enhanced. Water therapy can help with weight loss, which may also help bring the pain and other debilitating effects of their arthritis.
You may not have heard of them before, but Cavaletti rails are a well-known tool in the rehabilitation of pets who require physical therapy. They comprise of a series of horizontal poles placed at varying heights and distances depending on the needs of your pet. Your pet then walks over these rails from one end of the course to the other. This may sound simple, but this therapy has been proven to help pets in a number of ways, including:
Improving their range of motion
Improving their coordination
Improving their ability to shift their weight from limb to limb
Normalizing their gait
Build confidence in their movement
Cold laser therapy is another effective non-invasive treatment that has been shown to be valuable in the treatment of veterinary conditions including arthritis. The laser itself is a beam of light that is targeted at the area affected by the arthritic inflammation. Once it comes into contact with the area, the laser actually penetrates the tissue and stimulates and speeds up the natural healing process. This is done by triggering an increase in oxygenated blood to the area, which reduces inflammation and enhances the speed with which the tissues can repair themselves. The process is entirely painless and there are no known side effects.
As with all other treatments listed here, laser therapy will be performed over a number of sessions in a treatment plan that is tailored to the specific needs of your pet. To find out more about any of the treatments for pet arthritis listed here, or to schedule a consultation for your pet, please contact our expert veterinary team today.