Aches and Pains: Arthritis
It's not just for the old; arthritis is a very common occurrence. While the natural wear and tear of joints over time plays a role, remember that younger pets suffer too. This is particularly the case if they injured a joint previously or had an abnormal joint to start with. There are many things you can do as an owner to help your pet continue to live an active, happy, pain free life despite this condition. Depending on the level of arthritis, you may require one, or all, of the below recommendations for the rest of your pet's life.
1. Weight control (applicable to all cases)
If your pet is already trim, then keeping them that way is vital. Any extra weight being carried across an arthritic joint makes it more painful, and speeds along the development of more arthritis. If your pet is overweight, please talk to the veterinary team about organizing a plan for controlled weight loss (and check out the FAQs section under 'Obesity'). With cats in particular, be very cautious about dieting; done wrong, it can be harmful. Your vet is the best resource for creating a weight loss plan that works for you and your pet.
2. Regular, consistent exercise
Unused joints stiffen up. Overused joints ache the next day. Find the level your pet is comfortable at. Aim for more frequent, shorter bouts of exercise, and maintain it daily.
Using supplements may relieve some of the pain associated with arthritis. It can even reduce the amount of medications required to maintain an already painful condition, leading to less impact on the body as a whole. Quality-controlled products from reputable sellers provide peace of mind that the label is accurate and the product consistent. There are no commercially available diets that contain adequate amounts of supplements to be affective in arthritis cases. There are several prescription diets that do, including Royal Canin Mobility or Hill's j/d.
Glucosamine alone has little effect; its success is improved by being mixed with chondroitin. Additional remedies, such as Devil's Claw, also reduce the pain of arthritis. Because Devil's Claw works faster than most supplements (having some effect within 2 weeks, instead of 6 weeks such as glucosamine and chondroitin alone), we recommend Flexadin supplements.
Omega 3 fatty acids (aka fish oils) are more potent the more specific they are. We are looking for 66 mg/kg dose of EPA or DHA fatty acids. If the bottle doesn't show the breakdown of the fatty acids, find one that does. It was found that liquids are 1/3 more effective than capsules. These take weeks to months to show benefits, so don’t give up too early. That said, they do not work for every patient; studies show anywhere from 50% to 75% of cases respond, even at correct doses.
Other supplements that have been found to help include Green-lipped mussels, CBD and turmeric, but remember that no one controls quality of supplements and little is known about dosing. Please discuss any product with your vet; they will be able to advise you about amounts and risks.
Cartrophen Vet (sodium pentosan polysulfate) is an injectable treatment for arthritis that promotes healing of joints and reduces inflammation. It is given as a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection once weekly for 4 weeks, then monthly. Often owners can learn to do them on their own at home, although we're also happy to help those who are more shy of needles! See this LINK for more information.
4. Alternative therapies
Although we cannot offer it at Sooke Veterinary Hospital, please know that referral is available for chiropractic or acupuncture treatments. Not every 'practitioner' of these alternative therapies are made equal, and some are not even legal. We would be happy to guide you.
5. NEW injectables
Two new injectables are available for the treatment of osteoarthritis: Solensia (cats) and Librela (dogs as of Spring 2023). This differ from more traditional approaches as they are not chemical medications, but are an antibody designed to block some of the pain mediators that amplify and regulate the signal from sore joints. The idea is that blocking these signals reduces pain and some of the factors that then worsen the arthritis too. These are very easy on the system; they are broken down by our natural pathways for antibody recycling, as opposed to being processed by liver or kidney, making them safe for animals for 12 months of age. A single injection lasts 1 month.
6. Pain medications
We often have to use medications for pain relief periodically or chronically. Common medications include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories), Gabapentin, or opioids. We aim to reach the lowest effective dose but please remember: do not increase the amount or frequency of medications without consulting us. We are more likely to add other modalities than increase the dose of a given medication because of dangerous side effects.
Our goal at Sooke Veterinary Hospital is to help you and your pet live together for many long, comfortable years. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you have.