Winter is here and with it comes discomfort from the cold. Pets with arthritis, joint disease and other ailments hurt more in the cold just like we do. Diseased joints can cause a great deal of discomfort, however, with a little preparation and effort with you can help your pet keep the pep in his or her step through the cold months ahead.
Frequently we hear “Oh, he’s slowing down, but that is just a sign that he is just getting older.” The assumption is that nothing can be done to help an aging or aching pet. Nothing could be further from the truth! Here are a few of the possible treatments and things you can do for your pet:
Heat therapy: There are lots of choices to help pets through the cold winters. Sweaters and heated pet beds are some of the most common choices. Be careful that you don’t unintentionally cause burns to your pet with a heating source she can’t get away from.
Massage therapy: Even just 10 to 15 minutes of massage can make a big difference. Don’t know how? Watch this video or ask to speak with someone on our rehabilitation staff. They are happy to show you what to do.
Dietary supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate: So-called neutraceuticals that support joint function and help reduce inflammation are very popular with both people and pets. They are an excellent addition to other treatments and can help slow down the degenerative process in inflamed joints. There are many brands in various forms, from flavored pills to liquids, and most are available over the counter.
Adequan injections: Adequan is a cartilage component, given as a series of injections, that provides building blocks for damaged cartilage in addition to slowing down the enzymes responsible for degeneration. This is an FDA-approved product that, like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, can be used in conjunction with other treatments.
Acupuncture: Lots of people may chuckle at the idea of a dog relaxing on the exam-room floor with needles sticking out of his head, but those who have seen the results aren’t laughing — they’re smiling. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce pain and increase endorphin release in arthritic pets, often reducing and sometimes eliminating the need for prescription medications. This can be a boon to pets who are unable to use NSAIDs due to underlying renal (kidney) disease or other medical conditions. Acupuncture can be performed in combination with other treatments.
Weight control: Without question, the pain and inflammation of arthritis is worsened by carrying extra weight. Owners who have spent hundreds of dollars on medications are often amazed at the difference in their pet when they finally give in and commit to a weight-loss regimen for their overweight pet. Arthritic dogs don’t like to exercise, leading to more weight issues, leading to more arthritis — it’s a vicious circle. But low-impact exercise such as walking combined with a diet is extremely beneficial to arthritic pets.
Prescription medications: The most well-known choice for arthritis treatment, medication can be a lifesaver for many dogs and cats. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly used, though other options are available. Products such as Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox, Metacam, and Zubrin are some of the most popular options.While it’s tempting to just ask your vet for a prescription, there are a few things you need to keep in mind, as NSAIDs are not without side effects. Your veterinarian will want to monitor your pet regularly and will likely require blood work to make sure his liver and kidneys are functioning well. Pets with other medical conditions may be best served by other treatment options. Do not give your pet any over-the-counter human medications! They are not as effective in pets as in people, and carry the risk of some very serious side effects.
The bottom line is that if you see your pet struggling with aches and pain during the winter they are usually in more pain than we realize and you can do something about. If you have questions about your pet, call your veterinarian and we are happy to help!