The cold weather has arrived and we might not be the only ones that find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. You might notice your pet slowing down, taking longer to get up, seeming a bit stiff or lame, or getting a bit grumpy. Cold temperatures can exasperate these signs which are often related to degenerative joint disease (DJD), also known as osteoarthritis (OA), and commonly referred to as ‘arthritis’.
Most often we see OA in our senior pets (generally considered the last 1/3 of their life expectancy) but it can occur at any age. It is also common in dogs that have or have had previous joint damage, such as in cranial cruciate ligament ruptures, luxating patellas, and elbow and hip dysplasia.
OA mostly affects cartilage, the hard but slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another and acts as a shock absorber. In OA the surface layer of the cartilage breaks down and wears away allowing the bones to rub together causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Bone can abnormally grow on the edges of the joint and pieces of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space causing further pain and damage. However, our pets do not need to suffer in silence.
There are many ways we can treat OA including specialised diets, laser therapy, rehabilitation, supplements, and various types of medications that help to slow damage and manage pain. The efficacy of supplements is dependent on the type, source, and quality, and it is very important to always use products designed specifically for animals, Never give your pets any type of human pain medications because animals metabolise drugs differently to us and in many cases human medications are unsafe and deadly to pets.
As with any health issue, the sooner OA is managed the better the outcome, but every animal’s needs are unique. In this area, we are lucky as Levin and Horowhenua have one of only a few certified rehabilitation vets in the entire country who can create a personalised plan for your pets OA management to maximise their quality of life. Until then, make sure your pet has a warm, cushioned bed to sleep on and whilst it might seem counterintuitive, movement is an important aspect of OA prevention and even light activity is more beneficial than none.
Please call your vet and schedule an appointment to have your pet assessed to make sure that they are comfortable this winter.