Animals today are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. With improved healthcare and preventive medicine programs, we are seeing more and more pets live to their upper teens and even early twenties.
However, as our pets age they often require more medical attention and changes in health may be subtle at first. Dogs over the age of 7 and cats over the age of 9 are more prone to diseases such as arthritis due to age related changes. It is important that any medical conditions are diagnosed early so that treatment can begin in the early stages, and we rely on client observations as the cornerstone to their pet’s care.
Arthritis and Management
Arthritis is painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints often associated with bone changes. If your pet is slow to get up or no longer bounds up the stairs like they used to, they may have arthritic changes. We grade arthritis on a scale of 1 to 4:
Grade 1: Young dog predisposed to arthritis due to conformation or injury.
Grade 2: Minimal existing joint disease causing infrequent symptoms.
Grade 3: Moderate Degenerate Joint Disease (DJD) causing intermittent lameness.
Grade 4: Severe DJD with debilitating loss of function.
There are several ways to manage arthritis and help to restore a happy quality of life for your pet. Once pain is controlled, many of our older patients return to their favorite activities. Treatments are comprehensive and often involve weight management and nutritional supplements in addition to NSAID pain relievers.
Modes of Treatment
Treatment is comprehensive and often involves multiple ways of improving both joint health and reducing stress on the joint. If the arthritis is minor the doctor may choose to begin without NSAIDS. These non-medical treatments to improve joint health and prevent or reduce further arthritis development include:
- Weight Management
- Nutritional Supplements
- Fish Oils
Once arthritis is more severe, the doctor may talk to you about adding an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) or pain relievers. NSAIDs are safe to use, as long as the pet has healthy kidneys and liver. For this reason we like to annually do a blood screen to make sure they are still functioning well when your pet takes these drugs.
In addition, the hydrotherapy tub at the Wellness Center may be helpful, along with physical therapy, to increase mobility and range of motion. Both help by contributing to weight loss and strengthening the muscles supporting the joint.
Read more about NSAIDs and pain control HERE.
Although we love to pamper our senior pets, it is important to remember that excess weight can become a significant problem. This means that all those Milk-Bones can really add up. Obese animals can suffer from a range of additional health problems:
- Increased skeletal stress
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Liver disease
- Impaired immune function
- Decreased stamina and heat tolerance
- Breathing difficulties
Because of this, weight management is key to long healthy quality lives for senior pets. Ways to help manage your pet’s weight include:
- Measuring out the pet’s daily food
- Decreasing the number of treats
- Increasing or maintaining their activity level
- Low impact exercise such walking or swimming to improve mobility without over stressing their joints