Aging of the body occurs in all areas. Sometimes there is organ failure, sometimes there is mental failure and sometimes it is mobility failure. The most common mobility failure is arthritis in dogs and cats. We spend a great deal of time working on options.
Mobility is defined as “the quality or state of being mobile”. In our companion pets the joints are the most common areas to become limited. The joints can become damaged over time and lost there conformation. The lining of the joints should include cartilage to produce joint fluid and a smooth surface for movement, inter joint space free of infection or boney changes and good blood flow to provide nutrition to the joints. In big dogs and certain breeds of cats the aging of the hips is the anticipated site of damage. Once aging and degradation occur it is referred to osteoarthritis(OA).
There are factors that contribute to osteoarthritis for example obesity, lack of good exercise, poor diet, environment and genetics. Genetics can’t be readily controlled. Often when purchasing a large breed dog (labrador, shepherd, danes) owners will inquire if the dog has come from “good hips”. There are certifications from OFA and PennHIP to identify the parent dog with excellent hips decrease the likelihood of problems in their offspring. Throughout the dogs lifetime regular exercise on soft surfaces is a healthy choice. Cats have osteoarthritis of the hips related to obesity, lack of exercise, poor diet, environment and genetics just like dogs. Siamese cats and the Maine Coon are highest on the list.
Radiographs (x-rays) are the most common way to diagnose OA. An exam can be very helpful but not pinpoint for a diagnosis. What if your pet has OA? Well, weight reduction can be an easy and inexpensive step. There are joint diets that have high levels of fatty acids to reduce inflammation, higher protein for weight loss–I am referring to J/d by Hill’s. It works well. For dogs there are several nutriceutical products that have no side effects and are a great choice for early stages of OA. For example Dasaquin which is a combination glucoseamine/chondroitin sulfate/MSM/saponin product. This stimulates the cartilage cells to produce more joint fluid and reduce some scar tissue. If there is no cartilage left then it won’t work on that particular joint but does help the other joints.
The next drug category is non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. (NSAIDS). There are DOG ( I emphasized that word) prescriptions medications to reduce pain and inflammation. They have more side effects so the liver and kidney function should be monitored. The more immediate side effects are vomiting/diarrhea.However, they work well and can be tolerated for long periods of time. The addition of other products for pain control can be multimodal. These prescription medications help more directly with pain and not inflammation.There are limitations in this group for the feline patients.
Last hope for dogs and cats that can barely walk is the cortisone. While it does have numerous negative side effects it can be the very last hope for many patients. If there are pre-existing problems such as heart disease, kidney disease or severe dental infection it may not be used .
Seeking veterinary help early is key to the problems of OA. And remember trhoughout your pets lifetime keep the weight off so you can keep OA pushed away.