Autumn aches: is your pet affected?
With the cooler, damper autumn weather upon us now is the time when we all start to feel our aches and pains and our dogs (and other pets) are no exception. Lookout for limps and difficulty in rising after rest these are signs that your pet may have joint stiffness and pain which can be made much worse by the cold or damp weather.
Normal joint function is something that most of us take for granted in our pets. However arthritis (or degenerative joint disease) is a relatively common problem, particularly in older pets.
In the majority of cases arthritis occurs secondary to a lifetime of wear and tear on the joints. Arthritis may also occur following joint trauma or due to malformation of the joint, for example hip dysplasia.
The joints that are most susceptible to arthritis are those associated with the limb movement; these joints are called synovial joints. The ends of the bones which meet at these joints are covered by very smooth articular cartilage. The joints are also lubricated with synovial fluid allowing friction free movement.
Arthritic joints typically show progressive breakdown and thinning of the cartilage lining the ends of the bones and formation of secondary new bone around the joint. Affected joints usually appear stiff, swollen and painful. Typical signs to look out for include difficulty in pets getting to their feet after resting, dogs having problems in getting in and out of cars and often reluctance to go on walks.
So what can be done? Even those pets that are only mildly affected can benefit from treatment and the most effective approach involves several factors. Weight loss alone can be effective for animals that are overweight; this along with a combination of regular gentle exercise and massage is also helpful. Special diets can help to slow the progression of the disease and food supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate may help to reduce pain and inflammation.
Finally, many pets benefit from pain relief given by medication and with a number of medicines now available the right one can be found for your pet. If you do suspect your dog or other pet may be suffering from arthritis arrange a visit to the vets to discuss the options.
Remember, feeding a well-balanced healthy diet with regular exercise and active weight management can make a huge difference to your pet’s mobility.
Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen. w: www.hillsidevets.co.uk.
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