Your lively pet — who once jumped on the bed at the first site of food– is now slowing down and barely making it up the stairs to get to your bedroom. It is hard to watch our pet’s discomfort and we often feel helpless thinking that there is nothing we can do. Good News: there is a great deal you can do to help your pet, but you first must determine exactly what is wrong.
(First things first: aging is not a disease. If your pet is dramatically less active, don’t just assume it’s because she’s getting older. Healthy dogs remain active.)
The following signs are an indication that it is time to go to your veterinarian for an office visit:
• Difficulty or hesitation to sit down or get up
• Difficulty jumping up or reluctance to climb stairs
• Lameness in one or more limb
• Stiffness in the morning that improves as the day progresses
• Subtle signs that the pet may not want to put weight on the limb
• Sensitivity when touched in certain areas
Here’s How to Bring Back the Spring in your Pet’s Step!
When you bring your pet for an office visit, your veterinarian will want to do a comprehensive examination and assess your pet’s neurological responses, joint mobility, areas of pain and sensitivity. Your veterinarian may manipulate the limbs to assess your dog’s response and observe the extent to which your pet is able to put weight on the affected limb. Generally, an X-RAY is taken and additional testing (ultrasound, bloodwork) may be required. It is important that a veterinarian check for all of the pet’s symptoms as there may a variety of conditions contributing to your pet’s discomfort. The following conditions are just a few of the many causes of joint or muscle pain and lameness:
• Genetic conditions (e.g. hip dysplasia, osteochondritis)
• Immune mediated (e.g. cancer)
• Ligament tear (especially in the knee) or other injury
• Deferred pain from an organ (e.g. kidneys)
As you can see, there may be a lot more than just “old age” contributing to your pet’s pain and it is important to understand the causes so that proper treatment can be determined. Also, many young dogs may show signs of limping or discomfort which could be due to any of the above factors—in other words, a dog does not have to be “old” to suffer from joint or muscle pain.
Depending upon the test results, your veterinarian will advise you on the best course of action. Sometimes surgical repair is the best option. For older pets, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Rimadyl, Metacam or Previcox will help the pet feel more comfortable and increase mobility. These medications should be used judiciously however, as over time, they may impact liver function.
There are many action steps you can take to help relieve your pet’s pain and discomfort.
Weight Management Many times pets with joint and muscle pain are overweight. The excess weight will hasten the development of arthritis by increasing the pressure on the joints. It is important that you work with your veterinarian or nutritionist to give your pet a diet that helps your pet maintain an optimal weight. For some, switching to a raw food diet can be helpful in weight reduction although this may not be the appropriate diet for all pets. If you have had difficulty getting your pet to lose weight, you may want to schedule a consultation with us as we have had lots of success stories with even the toughest cases!
Daily Exercise A short 15 minute walk with your dog each day can do a world of good. For your dog, it is a chance to increase circulation, burn some calories and smell the world around him or her. Walking can reduce pain by stretching muscles and reducing stiffness. If you have a cat, you can take time each day to play with a feather or laser toy to keep them moving. For you, it is a wonderful bonding experience and can be a social time too. Try to plan your day so that you and your pets can benefit!
Diet Pets with joint pain can greatly benefit from Omega 3 fatty acids. These nutrients are called “essential fatty acids” because they must be obtained from the diet and cannot be manufactured in the body. If your pet is experiencing joint pain, please be sure to add these to their diet. Omegas can make quite a difference not only in supporting joint health but giving pets a beautiful, lustrous coat.
Nutritional Supplements There are many wonderful nutritional supplements available for pets that can really help. Be sure to look for a combination formula that contains not only Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM, but also key nutrients such as green lipped mussel, collagen (from eggshell membrane) and herbs such as Boswellia and Turmeric. Use a variety of formulas for maximum effectiveness. Some supplements can take time so allow a few weeks to see the real effects.
You can bring the spring back into your pet’s step by taking action and using these recommendations to help your pet. If you have any questions, or would like to schedule a phone or email consult with Dr. Selmer, please don’t hesitate to contact us.