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Spotlight on Osteoarthritis: Caring for our elderly pets

"An estimated 30-50% of UK Dogs and Cats are expected to experience the debilitating effects of arthritis during their lifetime".


This month's blog post focuses on the common ailments we see in our senior patients and the best ways to manage and treat them.





Many of our clients who come through the door here at PawVet tell us they have noticed a general 'slowing down' in their senior pet. In our experience we have found this to be due to a multitude of ailments, most commonly:

  1. Osteoarthrtitis

  2. Reduced muscle mass and strength

  3. Deteriorating sensory functions (hearing and vision)

  4. Chronic health conditions

  5. Reduced cognitive function (such as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction aka 'Doggy Dementia')


What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that primarily affects the cartilage in the joints. Cartilage is the firm, rubbery tissue that cushions the ends of bones and allows for smooth joint movement. When it deteriorates, as in OA, the bones can rub against each other, causing pain, inflammation, and stiffness.

Several factors can contribute to the development of OA in dogs and cats:

  1. Age: Older pets are more susceptible to developing OA as wear and tear on their joints accumulate over time.

  2. Breed: Certain breeds are predisposed to OA due to their genetics or conformation. Large breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds, are commonly affected, as are cats with specific skeletal structures.

  3. Obesity: Excess weight puts added strain on the joints, accelerating cartilage degeneration and increasing the risk of OA.

  4. Trauma or Injury: Joint injuries, such as fractures or ligament tears, can predispose pets to osteoarthritis later in life.


Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:


"Recognizing the signs of osteoarthritis in your pet is crucial for early intervention and management"


Common symptoms include:

  1. Limping or favoring one limb

  2. Difficulty rising or lying down

  3. Stiffness, especially after rest

  4. Reluctance to jump or climb stairs

  5. Decreased activity levels

  6. Noticeable changes in gait or posture

  7. Behavioral changes, such as irritability or aggression when touched


If you suspect your pet may be suffering from arthritis it is important to book in for a consultation at PawVet with one of our knowledgeable and friendly vets. We will take a detailed history, perform a comprehensive physical exam and may recommend running additional tests such as X Rays and blood tests to rule out other diseases.


"We will create an individually tailored treatment plan for your pet".


How should I care for my arthrtitic pet?

Recognizing the signs of OA in your pet is crucial for early intervention and management. Once diagnosed, we will create an individually tailored treatment plan to best manage your pet. In our experience, the best outcomes are achieved with a multifaceted approach using a combination of methods. These include:

  1. Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise can help alleviate strain on the joints.

  2. Medications: Joint supplements, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and injections received at the vets on a monthly basis may be recommended to remove the pain of OA.

  3. Physical Therapy: Controlled exercise, hydrotherapy, and physiotherapy techniques can improve joint mobility and muscle strength.

  4. Environmental Modifications: Providing orthopaedic bedding, ramps, or steps can make it easier for pets to navigate their environment.

  5. Nutritional Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin supplements may support joint health and reduce inflammation.


Medications:

We may recommend a medication trial for your pet. These can be different for each patient, and may be taken orally every day or be given as an injection here with us every month. We often get asked questions about these newer types of drugs, so we have included a brief overview:

 

Injectable medications:

Librela (for dogs) and Solensia (for cats) are relatively new products which contain a type of molecule known as a monoclonal antibody. A monoclonal antibody is a molecule specifically designed to bind to a particular protein involved in a disease process. These are designed to bind to a protein called nerve growth factor (NGF), preventing it from interacting with its receptors. NGF is responsible to trigger a pain sensation and the release of inflammatory substances from immune cells. Elevated concentrations of NGF have been found in pets with chronic osteoarthritis, suggesting its significant role in pain management.

 

What else could be causing my pet to gradually slow down?


While OA ranks highly in our local senior pets, we often see it in combination with other signs of ageing. Ageing also brings about a gradual loss of muscle mass and strength in cats and dogs which may contribute to a general sense of weakness or fatigue.

Diminished eyesight or hearing loss can make pets more cautious and hesitant to explore their surroundings, leading to a perceived slowdown in their behaviour. Additionally, changes in sensory perception can affect their ability to respond to stimuli, such as commands or familiar sounds.


Cognitive Dysfunction: Similar to dementia in humans, cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is a common condition in ageing pets that can affect their cognitive abilities, memory, and behavior. Cats and dogs with CDS may show signs of disorientation, confusion, changes in sleep patterns, and decreased interest in social interactions. These changes can contribute to a perceived slowdown in their overall activity levels and engagement with their environment.

Age-related chronic health conditions, such as kidney disease, heart disease, or diabetes, can impact a pet's overall well-being and energy levels. These conditions may require ongoing management, including medication, dietary modifications, or regular veterinary care. Pets with chronic health issues may exhibit signs of lethargy, weakness, or decreased appetite as their bodies cope with the effects of these conditions.


Have you noticed any of these signs in your pet?

If you think your pet could be affected by any of the conditions discussed in this post, ask your vet at your next consultation. Our elderly cats and dogs have the right to enjoy their senior years happy and pain free, and together we can make that happen.



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