Winter has arrived which is the perfect time to snuggle in with our furred friends. Unfortunately Winter can lead to a few health problems in our pets, the most significant of which is arthritis. Arthritis is often insidious in its nature and can creep up on pet owners without making itself apparent. Once a pet is placed on treatment for arthritis many owners report a huge improvement in their pet's demeanour and activity levels. Comments such as "I didn't realise how much pain he was in" are common. Our pets are stoic and uncomplaining making it all too easy for us to attribute changes in behaviour to getting old when in fact they are suffering from a very treatable disease.
Well, for what signs should we be on the look out?
Changes can be subtle such as rising from bed later in the day and unwillingness or hesitancy when jumping to and from furniture on which the pet would normally sit. You may notice a pet appearing to have a stiff gait when first rising or after a period of exercise, a pet may be less interested in play and interact less with the owners.
At more advanced stages we can see obvious pain on rising, limping, or reluctance to move.
What can we do about it?
The single most effective treatment is also the least expensive with no negative side-effects and many positive ones; that is maintaining a lean body condition.
Protecting your pet from cold weather particularly where they sleep greatly reduces the clinical signs of arthritis.
Supplements are also worth while to consider, these can be in the form of a complete prescription diet such as Royal Canin mobility or Hills j/d, or as supplement to add to another food such as Joint Guard powder or chews.
Your veterinarian may also suggest a course of injections for arthritis treatment. At B.A.H. we use the product Synovan which is very safe in our older pets and works by promoting blood flow to the joints, improving the quality of the joint fluid and by providing nutrients necessary for cartilage health. The initial course comprises 4 injections given weekly. After this a single booster injection is given as needed depending on the individual pet but no greater than 6 months from the previous injection.
If necessary non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may be prescribed. Your vet may recommend intermittent or daily use depending on the pet's condition. These medications are in general very safe but can have serious side effects if not monitored. Ideally pets should have a blood test every six months. If your pet is on anti-inflammatories and develops vomiting, diarrhoea, dark or black faeces you should stop giving the medication and contact your veterinarian.
In more advanced cases of arthritis your veterinarian may add in a range of further pain management drugs which would be tailored to the individual pet's condition.
It can be difficult for us to see gradual changes in our pets so if you think your pet might have arthritis please visit your veterinarian who can thoroughly examine your pet and discuss any concerns.
B.A.H. in partnership with CEVA Animal Health have a special offer helping you combat arthritis on two fronts. New pets starting a synovan course receive a free bag of joint guard chews. To take advantage of this offer please book your pet in for an arthritis assessment at Bendigo Animal Hospital this month.
Remember the single most effective arthritis treatment is to keep your pet in a healthy lean condition. So enjoy your snuggle on the couch but keep up the exercise or reduce the food to match their energy expenditure.