Arthritis in Pets

By Dr . Joi Sutton|2016-12-29T15:37:11-05:00Updated: December 12th, 2013|Pet Care, Pet Newsletter|0 Comments

As veterinarians become better at catching disease processes earlier we can provide improved quality of life for our beloved pets. Let’s face it, for many of us our dogs and cats are our family. Many people take better care of their pets than they take care of themselves. I think this is especially true of our ADW clients. From my email interactions with our readers, I feel the bond between human and pet is particularly strong. Proactive clients usually earn more time with their beloved pets. Many of our clients maintain their diabetics in a controlled state for many years.

Senior diabetics are subject to old age processes just as much as non-diabetic pets. One of the most common issues our senior pets face is arthritis. I wish to dedicate today’s newsletter to arthritis and what you can do to improve the quality of life of arthritic pets.

Regular controlled exercise. Ever hear the phrase “use it or lose it”? Pets need to maintain muscle mass to support their joints. Additionally, exercise burns calories and improves metabolism. We also know it decreases insulin resistance. You may not be able to travel great distances with your senior arthritic pet, but even traveling around the same block until your sweetie is tired will help. If you only make laps around your block you won’t find yourself a distance from home needing to carry your pet home if he poops out!

Proper body weight. This isn’t rocket science. Get excess weight off your arthritic pet. If your pet is diabetic I’m speaking to you, too! It’s a lot easier lifting 15 pounds of potatoes than 20 pounds of potatoes. If your pet is limited in activity then we should feed a low fat diet and use strict portion control. Put a measuring cup in the dog food bin! Know how much of the can you are feeding your cat. If multiple people feed your pet, write a schedule on the fridge so fluffy doesn’t pull one over on you and get fed dinner twice.

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories). As a vet who has practiced 20 years, I can tell you it is a sheer joy practicing at this modern age. We can run “stat” in-house labwork. We can take digital X-ray that can be sent to a radiologist far away for interpretation within an hour. And, as my middle aged brain sometimes falters (aka “sometimers”) we have the internet! Additionally, we have a veritable plethora of arthritis medications available. Gone are the days of using steroids or aspirin for arthritic pets. We have Rimadyl, Metacam, Deramaxx and others that are typically far less harsh on the kidneys, liver and gut than steroids and aspirin. We certainly want to avoid steroids for our diabetic pets. In my clinic I carry the generic forms of Rimadyl and Metacam for families who are on a budget. When given for months or years, the tab for meds can really add up.

Mild adjunct pain killers such as tramadol and Gabapentin have fewer side effects than NSAIDs and work well in conjunction with NSAIDs. “Multimodal” pain control means we are trying to decrease pain from numerous pathways. By using these adjunct meds, we can often improve a let’s quality of life and possibly decrease the dose of the NSAID to a minimally effective dose, lessening the potential side effects of NSAIDs.

Omega 3 fatty acids. Most Americans don’t get enough omega 3 fatty acids. They are so good for us! They have good anti-inflammatory effect and can decrease the pain of arthritis! Salmon oil is particularly high in the omega 3s. It’s not the omega 6 fatty acids that help with inflammation… It’s the omega 3s. I keep my fish oil capsules in the freezer so I don’t get fish burps. Whether it is your dog or your husband, nobody really wants to snuggle up with fish breathe.

Walking on underwater treadmills, acupuncture, physical therapy, and therapeutic laser are other treatment options for arthritis that you can discuss with your veterinarian. If you suspect your pet has arthritis, do please speak with your veterinarian. Your pet will thank you.

As always, I enjoy interaction with our readers. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at [email protected].

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.

About the Author: Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida. Connect with Dr. Joi on LinkedIn

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