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Don’t Ignore Arthritis Symptoms


Canine suffering from arthritis [ainDid you know that arthritis is even more common in dogs than it is in people?

One out of every six people suffers with some form of arthritis. Compare that to dogs, in which about 20 percent, or one in five dogs, feel the pain of arthritis. This number almost doubles in dogs older than 7 years.

This occurs as both people and dogs and cats grow older. The joints don’t function as smoothly and lose some of their ability to lubricate joint movement as time passes.

Often a pet owner overlooks this pain as simply “the pet is getting older.” In fact, some veterinarians believe that more than half of all dogs and cats with painful arthritis are going untreated because their owners don’t recognize the subtle and insidious symptoms of joint pain.

Some of the signs your pet is in pain include stiffness and reluctance to move, unexplained behavioral changes (more aggressive), easily tiring, not wanting to jump or noticeably limping and even panting when at rest. Few pets really whine when they move, and I am afraid if pet owners wait for the pets to vocalize their pain, it is too late and that poor animal has suffered chronically in silence.

The treatment for pain should be a multimodal approach, using moderate exercise, nutrition and proper supplements, acupuncture and pharmaceuticals.

Moderate exercise is recommended to keep pets’ weights in a normal range and not add to the stress on already-stressed joints. If possible, swimming is a good form of exercise because it is non-weight bearing. Soft warm beds, ramps for getting in the car and elevated dog bowls all help pets with arthritis pain.

Veterinarians also have new-generation, non-steroid medications that can help. This new generation of non-steroid medications uses enzyme inhibitors, and they act like many of the new human arthritis medications. Many pets, especially those with chronic and progressive hip dysplasia are getting good relief with these medications, especially along with proper home care and physical therapy. As both cats and dogs may have serious side effects to aspirin and ibuprofen, pain medications should only be prescribed by your veterinarian. I do recommend a blood screening to assess the liver function before starting any of these drugs.

Acupuncture and massage therapy are proving to add pain relief and quality of life to pets with arthritis. The stimulation of certain acu points can provide long-lasting relief of pain by releasing endorphins, but there are other physiological changes that occur involving the motor nerve endings, which result in less muscle atrophy. As a certified food therapist, I cannot stress enough the importance of a high-quality diet and the supplementation using glucosamine and antioxidants.

Maintaining an ideal body weight can add years to your pet’s life because obesity puts extra pressure on those joints.

Chronic pain can change a person, and it can change your pet’s personality and interaction with people.

If you are concerned that your pet may be in pain, ask your veterinarian.

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