Joint pain during the winter months, slow to get going in the morning, reluctance to go for long walks. As veterinary medicine and the care we provide continues to improve, our pets are living longer now than every before. These longer lifespans are bringing with them more age-related conditions for us to care for. Unfortunately there is no perfect equation to say how old our pets are in human years. But according to the AVMA a 15 year old cat is equivalent to a 78 year old person and a 15 year old dog, depending on size, is equivalent to a 76-115 year old person (small to very large breed). There are numerous problems that can befall our geriatric pets such as heart disease, diabetes, senility, and even cancer. But the most commonly see is joint and bone disease and weakness. Older pets especially larger breeds are prone to arthritis and joint disease that can lead to pain and weakness.
Some signs of arthritis in pets can be non-specific and often similar to normal ageing so ask your vet to evaluate your senior pets pain level at each visit. Some signs are weight gain, sleeping more, favoring a limb, hesitating to jump or run, decreased activity or interest in play, and stiff or sore joints. The good thing about improvements in veterinary medicine is that there have also been improvements in how we treat arthritis and pain in out pets. There are more options now than ever before and can include both Easter and Western medicine philosophies.
- Acupuncture: This technique has been used in human and animal medicine in China for thousands of years to treat many ailments including arthritis. Each acupuncture point has specific actions when stimulated with the insertion of a needle. There has been a lot of research to show positive results in the treatment of arthritis with acupuncture.
- Cold Laser: Cold laser uses a beam of light to stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation. It has been used with great success in treating arthritis, tendon or soft tissue injuries, and promotes wound healing.
- Omega 3 Fatty acids: The two main omega-3 fatty acids used for anti-inflammatory purposes is EPA and DHA. They have been used to improve coat quality, help with allergic skin disease, and to decrease inflammation in joint disease and arthritis. The key point we have found is that many over the counter fatty acid supplements do not have the appropriate dosage to be efficacious for our pets as an anti-inflammatory therapy. Consult your vet about possible usage for your pet, we generally recommend 60 mg/kg of body weight of combined EPA and DHA to be effective.
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Glucosamine effects the collagen within the cartilage and has a mild anti-inflammatory effect due to its ability to scavenge free radicals. Chondroitin inhibits the destructive enzymes within the joint and cartilage. When used together they have shown some positive effects in the treatment of arthritis and joint pain in our senior pets.
- Prescribed Pain medications: There are numerous prescription medications your veterinarian can prescribe for the benefit and treatment of your senior pets pain that can greatly improve their quality and longevity. Some of these include:
- NSAIDs- meloxicam, carprofen, firocoxib
- Adequan- an injectable glycosaminoglycan supplement
- Numerous others….
With the extension of our pets’ time with us, we in the veterinary field are here to help them feel their best and live long happy lives with the pet owners that love them. There are so many options available to us to help our pets, consult your veterinarian on what you can do to help your pet age with grace today.