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There are many illness’s and conditions that affect not only us, but our pets as well. As we age, we may notice some soreness and stiffness in our joints. This sometimes advances from acute to chronic pain. For most of us this is due to changes in the bones and cartilage of our joints, commonly referred to as arthritis. Our pets are not spared the aches and pains of arthritis. They too, can experience the pain of chronic arthritis.
There are things one can do to help minimize the onset and progression of this condition in their pets. First is good nutrition. Second is exercise. Third, body condition, and last is maintaining your pet on supplements, medications, and treatments as needed.
Let’s look at nutrition. A balanced diet is critical to good bone and muscle health. Dogs and cats need a certain amount of calcium, vitamin D and phosphorous along with trace minerals to promote good bone health. A good quality commercial food can provide this for our pets. It is possible to prepare their food at home but that takes research and time to do it properly. A dog or cat eating just “people” food is likely not receiving the right balance of nutrients.
The second factor, exercise, needs to be done on a daily basis and tailored to each individual pet. A hunting breed may require more strenuous exercise than a Chihuahua, but most need it daily, not weekend warrior episodes. Walking and swimming are two exercise activities that can maintain a dog’s muscle tone which provides support to the bones. Cats are not easy to walk and swimming is not on your cats “to do list”. You can, however, engage your cat in routine, daily exercise using a laser light or toys. The key is consistent and daily exercise thorough your pet’s life
Body condition is a critical factor in your pet’s health. Fat tissue creates inflammation which results in more arthritic pain. A pet that is overweight experiences more pain from arthritis. Your pets weight is in your control. He does not have to be overweight. There are good diet foods for pets on the market and if needed there are prescription diet foods. Do not sabotage your pets diet by feeding excessive treats and table food. Remember food does not equal love, allowing your dog to become overweight and suffer from it is not loving. Sometimes there is a medical reason for a dog being overweight such as hypothyroidism. If your pet is overweight, you should see your veterinarian and discuss if your pet has any medical issues that are contributing to her weight. Just like us, calories matter, be careful what you feed.
Finally, let’s look at supplements, medications and treatments. Supplements generally are some form of Glucosamine and Chondroitin. These products help promote cartilage in the joints. This cartilage is responsible for cushioning the joint and producing fluid that lubricates the joints. Not all supplements are equally as effective. Be sure to check with your veterinarian for one he/she recommends. If arthritis has progressed to a painful condition, your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-inflammatory. Only use anti-inflammatory medications prescribed by your veterinarian, many of the human products are toxic to our pets. As this condition progresses, supplements and anti-inflammatory medications may not be sufficient to manage the pain and your Veterinarian may prescribe an actual pain medication. As with human medicine, veterinary medicine is developing new therapies to help with inflammation and pain. One such therapy is the use of Therapy Laser. A Therapy Laser can decrease pain and inflammation. Check with your veterinarian to see if Therapy Laser treatment is an option for your pet.
Our pets look to us to keep them comfortable and healthy, there are things we as owners, can do to enrich our pets lives and provide them pain free days.
Now, time for that walk..
Dr. Nancy Schenck, D.V.M., of Four Loving Paws Veterinary Services, Inc., can be reached at 812-448-1415. If you have a question or pet-related topic for Dr. Schenck to discuss in an upcoming article, email it to email@example.com