Just like us our senior pets also suffer from osteoarthritis. Roscoe is a 13 year old Australian Silky Terrier who is currently on a treatment program for his osteoarthritis. Roscoe has always had a luxating patella (this is where the knee cap can move from the groove it is situated in) but his degree of luxation did not warrant surgery to fix the problem. In December 2006 Roscoe also damaged his anterior cruciate ligament but is was decided that due to his size he may be able to be treated medically rather than having surgery on his injured hind leg.
Roscoe was treated with a course of injections which increase the blood supply and circulation to his joints as well as having a Joint Guard supplement added to his food. Joint Guard contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin which also aids in cartilage regeneration and reducing the pain in arthritic joints. As Roscoe has also been a very active dog his owner needed to reduce the amount of pressure he was putting on his joints so he was strictly confined for several weeks to aid in the healing of his ligament.
Roscoe recently visited the clinic as he was beginning to show signs of stiffness and soreness in his hind legs again. Dr Raj suggested that radiographs should be taken of both of his knees to see what degree of osteoarthritis was present in his joints. Roscoe was anaesthetised for the procedure so that he remained still so that proper views could be taken of his knees. He was placed on an intravenous fluid drip throughout the procedure and while he was recovering from the anaesthetic because the drip would maintain his blood pressure as well as support his kidney function by ensuring there was adequate blood flow to them. Nurse Lauren closely monitored Roscoe's vital signs while he was asleep under the anaesthetic.
Dr Raj found that on the radiographs he could see some arthritic changes to the bones around the joint which is due to the rupture of his anterior cruciate ligament. His stifle joint was swollen and there was significant muscle wasting in his hind leg as he was not using the leg as much as he should.
Roscoe was treated with a non-steroidal anti inflammatory injection and his owner is now taking him swimming in order to build up the muscles in his injured leg.
One in five dogs suffers from osteoarthritis and the signs are often subtle because our pets are very good at masking their pain. The early signs of osteoarthritis are stiffness, difficulty walking, difficulty climbing stairs, lagging behind on walks and difficulty rising.
Tips to Managing Osteoarthritis
Weight Loss - osteoarthritis problems can be greatly alleviated in pets carrying too much weight simply by shedding some of these unneeded kilos.
Pentosan/Cartrophen - These injectable medications are given as an initial course and then ongoing therapy. They stabilise joint membranes, help joint cartilage repair and improve joint lubrication. They provide significant improvement in a high percentage of arthritis patients with minimal, if any side effects.
Non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs - These are similar to anti-arthritic drugs in humans but specifically formulated to dogs and cats. These medications reduce inflammation and help significantly with pain, and in the vast majority of animals can be given long term with minimal, if any side effects. N.B. dogs and cats often experience serious side effects with human preparations and these should not be given to your pet.
Nutriceuticals - Food products that have "pharmaceutical" affects for example Joint Guard and Hills Canine J/D. Recently released trials are now showing that 70% or better of pets with arthritis will respond significantly to the use of these products. Joint Guard contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin which help to reconstruct the damaged joints and block the enzymes that break down cartilage.
Exercise - It is very important to keep arthritic joints moving so regular moderate exercise is encouraged. However we do not want these joints over-worked so the tennis ball may need to be retired. For really sore joints or post-trauma or surgery we encourage swimming and physiotherapy. Passive joint manipulation and massage can be very helpful especially at times of discomfort eg first thing in the morning.
Home Comforts - Keeping our four legged friends warm, especially at night is important. This may be the time to invest in a cat vest, doggy jacket, special dog rug and / or extra heating for our pets sleeping quarters.
Other Options - Acupuncture and chiropracty are useful in some cases, but treatment responses and duration can be variable.
Surgery can be an excellent option in some cases such as total hip replacements, excisional arthroplasty, joint denervation and arthroscopic procedures. All procedures are now available in Melbourne.