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The Northwest’s cold and wet weather can make everyday life a little tougher on your aging pets. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive joint disease that is common in older dogs and cats – and it can be more painful in the winter months. As joint cartilage wears away with age, bone is exposed. When two bone ends grind against each other, it results in pain and inflammation – and it continues to worsen over time. Luckily, there are many things we can do to help your pet continue to live an active and comfortable life.

Watch for Signs of Pain

The symptoms of OA are much the same in both dogs and cats . Common signs to watch for include: an altered gait as the pet tries to keep weight off of painful joints, muscle loss from reduced exercise, and difficulty in getting up after lying down, maneuvering stairs and jumping. Depending on the amount of pain experienced, some pets may show a loss of appetite, changes in behavior, and/or lick or bite at the painful areas.

Options for Treament

At Animal Care Clinic we manage joint pain with a variety of pain control, anti-inflammatories, nutritional supplements, prescription diets, and therapies. In most cases, several treatment options are used together to build a management plan. Dasuquin is a supplement we often recommend in the early days of arthritis to protect joint cartilage and support joint repair. Adequan is an injection that stimulates the formation of healthy cartilage and joint fluid. In addition, we routinely recommend Hill’s j/d diet, which includes beneficial additives such as therapeutic levels of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants as well as glucosamine and chondroitin – all of which help decrease inflammation and promote healthy joints.

There are several non-medical treatment options available to treat joint pain. Cold laser therapy uses a beam of light to stimulate damaged cells to increase overall cellular function . This results in a reduction of pain, inflammation and swelling, an increase in circulation, and the release of endorphins – the body’s natural pain reliever.

The underwater treadmill uses the natural buoyancy and resistance of warm water to allow arthritic pets to exercise muscles and joints without putting pressure on sore points. The water pressure and temperature can alleviate swelling and pain. Muscle mass gradually increases without discomfort or stress as an arthritic pet will bear more weight on a sore limb in the water than on land.

Management is a Work in Progress

As OA progresses, there are prescription anti-inflammatories and pain relievers that can greatly improve the quality of life for your aging pet. An effective treatment plan for arthritis relief is a work in progress and likely to change as your pet continues to age. Your observation of your pet is the starting point of any plan. Is your old girl starting to miss her litter box? You might need to get her one with lower sides. Is your greybearded boy missing his evening meal and hanging out by himself after a big game of ball? Maybe it’s time to think about a milder form of exercise – like the underwater treadmill. And a heated dog bed. And an anti-inflammatory.

At Animal Care Clinic, we take pain very seriously. We believe our elderly friends deserve to age in grace and comfort. They never need to hurt. Give us a call to find out how we can help you to help them.