Once a pup gets to be approaching 15 years old (105 in "human years"!?), it's not surprising that they can develop painful joints. Over the past few months, Bailey's parents have been noticing that his overall activity level has decreased, he's having trouble getting up from laying, and he's been lagging behind on walks. Sometimes his legs slide out from under him on the wood floors.
When I examined Bailey, I noticed that he had thickening and decreased range of motion in his elbows, hips, and toes. He also had some back pain and neurologic deficits in his hind legs (scuffing the paws, knuckling over on the paws). Otherwise, he looked pretty darn great for a senior citizen!
Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease (DJD), occurs when there is thinning of the cartilage within a joint. Combined with inflammation and subsequent extra bone formation within the joint, the end result is pain. When a joint is painful, the pet will avoid using that limb and start limping. Over time, the muscles of that limb will atrophy and the limb will become even weaker. It is often hard for pet owners to recognize signs of pain - decreased activity level, struggling to get up, and limping are all signs of pain, and are an indication that the pet should be evaluated by a vet. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is a progressive condition which will eventually get worse over time.
Bailey's family wanted to know how we could help him become more mobile again and enjoy life to the fullest. Luckily, there are many treatment options available for dogs with arthritis, aimed to improve comfort and mobility. If you think your dog has arthritis, we can develop a personalized treatment plan to help maximize their quality of life. Contact us for an evaluation!
Bailey's treatment regimen includes:
- Medications: The mainstay of arthritis medication is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as Rimadyl or Metacam. These medications can have side effects in the kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal tract, so close monitoring and routine bloodwork should be performed while your pet is on these meds. Other medications will often be used in conjunction with an NSAID, to further relieve arthritis pain. Please do not ever administer any over the counter human pain medications to your pet - most are at best, ineffective and at worst, toxic.
- Supplements: A variety of nutritional supplements have been found to improve signs of arthritis, including glucosamine/chondroiten and fish oil supplements. An injectable medication called Adequan can also be helpful in strengthening joint cartilage and improving clinical signs.
- Environmental Modification: A dog with arthritis will require certain help aids and changes to the home environment to ease mobility. Stairs are often very difficult for arthritic dogs so should be avoided if possible. A harness with handles (we love the Help 'Em Up) can allow you to provide help and stability. Using rugs/runners and placing booties or nail grips on the feet will help to provide traction on slippery floors.
- Acupuncture: This can be a very effective adjunctive treatment for osteoarthritis, used together with traditional therapies. Bailey showed subjectively increased strength and comfort after just two sessions! We are happy to be working together with another local mobile veterinarian to provide this service.
- Physical Therapy: Strengthening exercises and low-impact activity like swimming (or underwater treadmill) is a great way to build muscle in arthritic dogs. Strong muscles help to stabilize joints and improve mobility. Besides, dogs are the best gym buddies around.
As you can see, Bailey's family was not willing to give up on him and we wholeheartedly agreed! We refuse to accept that dogs like Bailey are just "old", without trying our hardest to make them comfortable and functional. Bailey's family is focused on improving his quality of life for as long as possible. We appreciate their loving commitment to their "first child" and we're thrilled to see him so happy.
Make an appointment today, to discuss how we can help your pet's comfort and mobility during his golden years!