Managing Arthritis in the Cold
My dog has arthritis and with colder weather approach he/she gets more uncomfortable- what can I do?
Arthritis is a common problem in both young and old dogs as well as cats. The most common causes of arthritis include developmental conditions (hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia) or traumatic conditions (fracture involving a joint surface or a torn cranial cruciate ligament) to name a few. Arthritis occurs when the articular cartilage which caps the end of long bones within a joint is worn thin or completely lost. As a result of the loss of the articular cartilage, bone on bone contact occurs that leads to debilitating pain, lameness, and loss of function.
What can you do? Here are a few tips to help your dog feel better:
The first question I have is ‘Is your pet overweight?
And the most likely answer is ‘YES’. In my practice nearly four out of five dogs are overweight. Just like people, weight is the biggest negative contributor to the ill effects of an arthritic joint. Think about this example: You are healthy and your joints are happy. Put on a back pack and add 10% of your body weight into the back pack. Now, go about your day with this back pack on and tell me how you feel at the end of the day. Most likely you will be fatigued, exhausted and sore- sore in places (joints) where you have never been sore before. Now consider if you have a painful, arthritic joint and you are carrying that overly full back pack every day. What do your joints feel like now. Unload the back pack and even an arthritic joint will feel much relief! Bottom line: weight reduction is the most important treatment out there for an arthritic patient (and its the cheapest! You feed less thus you spend less money on dog food and as an extra benefit you have less p@#p to pick up in the back yard!)
Number two- the use of nutraceuticals or joint supplements can be helpful in many patients.
Examples include glucosamine with chondroitin sulfate, MSM, ascorbic acid, manganese, CBD, fish, turmeric, etc etc etc. These agents have been found to support the damaged articular cartilage as well as modulate the inflammatory response. Other examples include the Omega 3 fatty acids or fish oils that have been shown to have potent anti inflammatory properties (caution- omega 6’s and 9’s will cause inflammation so choose wisely when reading the label). There are numerous agents out there both oral as well as injectable that have been found to be very beneficial in the arthritic patient. Many of our clients suffer from arthritis themselves and when told they can use these agents on their pets they get excited.
Number three- Exercise!
Most people say ‘what?’ but the reality is exercise is important for many reasons. Exercise in moderation including straight line walking, jogging, or running is very good. Exercise that does not involve quick start-stops and repetitive motions such as jumping. Exercise helps maintain lean muscle which in turn helps increase metabolism and drop that all important weight. Exercise also helps maintain or regain range of motion within the arthritic joint which is protective. Bottom line- get out there with your pet and exercise, but remember there is a threshold. At some point if you do too much exercise your pet will succumb to the negative effects of the arthritis. Therefore, our goal is to start small and work your way up but stay below the threshold. Overtime your threshold will increase. Consistency is key! An exercise program that is on a regular schedule is paramount. Ideally three to four days of regular exercise for your pet is mandatory.
Number four- Many of you have heard the hype about stem cells and/ or PRP which fall into a category called Regenerative Medicine.
With stem cell therapy we use your pet’s own cells to reduce inflammation and repair/ regenerate damaged tissues. With proper case selection stem cell therapy can be a very successful alternative to chronic medications or surgical intervention.
In many cases ‘drugs‘ are needed for the control of the pain produced in an arthritic joint. Ideally non steroidal anti inflammatory (NSAID) medications are used but used cautiously. Never, if at all possible, use steroids in an arthritic joint as steroids negatively impact the metabolism of the articular cartilage cells and will cause the little, good remaining cartilage to degenerate further. Our goal with the use of NSAID’s is to use the lowest effect dose for the shortest duration necessary to control the pain or as needed. These medications as with all medications can have side effects; therefore, knowledge is key. Ask one of our veterinarian for recommendations and guidelines for their successful use in your arthritic pet.
Finally, in some cases, surgery may be necessary.
I hope this helps but I realize you probably have as many questions if not more with all your new knowledge. Do not hesitate to ask one of our veterinarians for further recommendations based on the above guidelines.