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7 Tips for Osteoarthritis Management in the Dog

Posted by Jessica Gramlich on November 23, 2015 at 10:56 AM
Jessica Gramlich
Dr. Gramlich is a 2008 graduate of North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. After completing a one-year emergency internship in Rhode Island, she spent five years working as a small animal general practitioner in New Hampshire.

VP-olddog.jpgI love old dogs.  I think they are so precious.  They are often some of my favorite patients.  There is nothing harder than saying good by to a geriatric patient due to ambulatory issues.  There are so many ways that we can help to manage osteoarthritis and it is important to get the owners involved with the plan.  

Weight Management

Keeping a pet trim helps to decrease the stress applied to the affected joints as well as decreasing inflammatory mediators released by fat cells.  It seems like an easy enough task, but weight loss can be very elusive.  Owners love their pets with food and unfortunately it can be hard to convince them of the downfall of obesity in their painful love ones.  There are special diets available for joint health and weight management if owners are able to change the diet. 

Nutraceuticals

There certainly is debate about these medications. Is it a placebo effect or do they actually help? Some patients seem to respond very well while others show a more moderate response.  Glucosamine/chondroitin, Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation, and perna mussel medications have been used to help alleviate joint pain.

Movement- Physical therapy

It sounds counterintuitive to some owners that exercise helps with arthritis, but low impact activity can help keep the patient’s muscles strong and the joints more lubricated.  Taking your pet to a physical therapist for directed treatments using underwater treadmills and targeted exercises can help keep a pet stronger for longer.  If PT isn’t a possibility in your area, then encourage owners to take the pet on multiple short leash walks and to take the pet swimming.  In trying to make the world easier and more comfortable for your dog, always try to make sure there is good footing and comfortable bedding.  Yoga mat material can be laid down for traction, you can even buy grip booties to help your dog stand on slippery floors.  After a good dose of exercise make sure there are cushioned beds to allow your dog to lay comfortable and avoid pressure sores.

Pain management

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have traditionally been the mainstay of osteoarthritis management.   These medications can make a huge difference in the quality of life for our patients.  They can work miracles.  Unfortunately they can have side effects and these patients need to be monitored very closely.  There are alternative opiate based pain medications and the efficacy varies from patient to patient.  Often times when used in combination with an NSAID a happy balance can be made with pain management.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture can be very beneficial for certain pets.  The expertly placed needles can stimulate anti-inflammatory mediators, promote healthy muscles and the release of pain relieving neurotransmitters.  Despite the scary needles, acupuncture is relatively painless although it does take a certain pet personality to be able to sit still for treatments.  

By using a multimodal approach to arthritis management we can improve the quality of life for our patients.  It’s so tragic to have that euthanasia appointment because the dog is “getting old.”  By working together with our clients we can help to make our patients more comfortable for a longer period of time.

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Topics: osteoarthritis

 

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