Healthy dogs and cats love to run, jump, and play. If you notice your pet is slowing down and is no longer as active as he used to be, you should address possible causes. Getting older does not have to mean a reduced quality of life. Just like people, many pets suffer from osteoarthritis. It is a condition in which the joints become inflamed, swollen, and painful. Pets with mild OA may have slight stiffness of the joints while those with more severe disease may have limping and lameness. Sadly, all osteoarthritic pets have some loss of mobility due to pain. The bones and joints most commonly affected are the hips, knees, elbows, shoulders, and spine.
Drugs may relieve pain, but they also can cause further degeneration of your dog’s joints and health. Non-steroidal drugs, such as Metacam, Rimadyl, and many others commonly used in veterinary medicine, can damage the internal organs while steroidal pain relievers may cause muscle atrophy, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney disease, and Cushing’s disease. The goal should be to maintain joint health and overall health, in addition to relieving pain and inflammation. These drugs may be used initially, during a transition to a drug free life, or titration to a lower dose. Dr. Jan has a multi-modal approach to the treatment of pain.
Omega 3: Pets need a supplement high in Omega 3 with no added Omega 6. Omega 6 is important but it is already in the diet in excessive amounts. Essential Fatty Acid (EFA): Oil from fish contains EPA and DHA; both are omega-3 fatty acids. Many dog owners are feeding their dog fish oil, but most dogs are not getting a high enough dose to make a difference. Start your dog on a dose calculated at EPA of 20 mg per lb body weight. Many of the products say “1000 mg of EFAs” on the front of the bottle. EFA sounds like EPA but EFA stands for essential fatty acids, this includes EPA and DHA. Be sure to read the label to see what is really in there. Pets need a supplement high in Omega 3 with no added Omega 6. Omega 6 is important but it is already in the diet in excessive amounts.
An example: the target dose for a 50 lb dog is 1000 mg of EPA. For most of the conditions treated in animals (digestive, skin, or joint issues) we want a fish oil that is higher in EPA than DHA. There is no toxicity but if you exceed the capacity to absorb it, the dog may get diarrhea. If this happens just lower the dose.
For small dogs less than 10 lbs regular strength human fish oil capsules work well as these tend to have just under 200 mg EPA per dose. For bigger dogs, you will need extra strength capsules. For high dose supplements, you will need “extra strength fish oil”. The pet specific brands tend to have higher concentrations per dose than the human products.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate, with MSM: helps protect and lubricate joints
Adequan, a liquid form of glucosamine, may sometimes produce improvement more quickly.
Multivitamins: for the same reason that humans take them – just in case(?!), but also if you are feeding a home-cooked or raw diet. It provides peace of mind. Pets that have Pica (urge to eat unusal objects like gravel, grass, poop), can sometimes be helped with a Multivitamin supplement, or a diet change.
Lifestyle: An exercise program of frequent short walks is beneficial for cellular repair. Walks get the blood moving to facilitate regeneration and healing
Diet: Be sure your pet is not overweight – use a balanced natural diet. A properly balanced natural diet, preferably home-prepared following a recipe based on science, or a raw diet that is quality controlled. If you are concerned about your pet’s weight there are foods available that mobilize the fat without leaving the pet hungry.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture increases circulation to the muscles and joint capsule, which provides more oxygen and slows cell degeneration. It also relieves painful muscle spasms; increases leg strength by stimulating nerves and muscles; and releases endorphins to make the dog feel better (click here for details on Acupuncture). If you feel comfortable with the acupuncture procedure, Dr. Jan will teach you how to do basic acupuncture for your arthritic pet as a cost saving measure to improve the success of this wonderful pain relieving option.
Laser Therapy: Light energy enters the damaged cells and stimulates inter-cellular activity. This reduces pain in the area and speeds recovery of the damaged cells. Once the cells recover, the healing process is complete.
Metacam Pain relief: This is a pain reliever commonly used in veterinary medicine for the prevention or treatment of pain in dogs and cats. Liquid Metacam is used for small to medium breeds, and pill form for large breeds (as a cost savings measure)