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Aches and Pains of Aging

Category: News

Smart Strategies to Keep Your Pet Pain Free

Kelly L. Gellasch, DVM, DACVS, DAIPM
CARE Veterinary Center

Many animals come to CARE Veterinary Center for evaluation of “arthritis” and pain management. Most are older dogs that are having a hard time rising and are stiff when walking. Owners are concerned because they cannot go as long on walks anymore. A large portion of these animals have Degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis. Managing this condition long term can provide an improved quality of life for our beloved animals.

Weight management plays one of the important roles in improving clinical signs of arthritis. Dogs should have a noticeable waist behind the ribs, and the ribs should be felt under the skin. Decreasing the amount of food and snacks can be a beginning to weight loss. Replacing snacks with carrots and apple slices can also help slim your buddy down. Regular exercise and activity can help with weight loss and joint health. A veterinarian can determine calories that are appropriate for your pet to help them lose weight and also an exercise plan.

Joint diets high in omega 3 fatty acids are recommended. Omega 3 acts as a natural anti-oxidant, they also have an anti-inflammatory affect on the joints. Most of these diets have glucosamines to help create healthy joint fluid and have a high protein to calorie ratio to help maintain lean body weight.

Supplements called nutraceuticals can be a benefit for joint function. Products that are readily absorbed from the intestine are helpful. A veterinarian can make a recommendation as to which are the best products for your pet. Supplements with high quality chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine are best, also substances with natural anti-oxidants. Oral and injectable forms are available. This class of medications is not FDA regulated so it is important to get a recommendation as to which products to try and are the most reputable.

Pain management is also important to keep your pet moving. It is difficult to exercise when you are uncomfortable. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are used commonly, also narcotic like drugs (tramadol) and drugs that stop the transmission of pain in the spinal cord (gabapentin). Monitoring blood work regularly when your pet is on pain management is important (every 6-9 months).

Therapeutic laser treatment is also becoming very essential and can lower oral medication doses or is some instances eliminate the need for oral pain medications. This is key is some older dogs that may have other health problems and medication contraindications. Laser treatments are done several times a week to every few weeks depending on the needs of the patient. The treatments are soothing to the animal and most dogs become very relaxed during the treatments. Results are usually seen after 2-3 treatments.

Degenerative joint disease affects many of our pets. It is important to investigate all modalities of pain relief to give your pet the best most comfortable life possible. Surgery may be necessary however; medical management may be an option too. Keeping pets comfortable as they age keeps them interacting with the family as long as possible.