A recent injury to my ankle brought the idea of pain management to the forefront of my thoughts. My injury not only causes pain now, but made me aware of a more chronic problem that will plague me down the road, that is osteoarthritis. Though x-rays showed that I did not break my ankle (phew) they did show that I have arthritic changes that will likely worsen and probably continue to cause me some level of pain even after my ankle sprain heals.

I am not the only one suffering from osteoarthritis though; it is a very common and possibly debilitating disease of both dogs and cats, especially as they age. But not to fret, there is hope, we can intervene and keep our fluffy friends as pain-free as possible. There are several options to help with pain from supplements and drugs to stem cell and laser therapy.

Certain aspects of a pet’s life can affect their likelihood or predispose them to osteoarthritis (from now on OA as that is a long word to type). Some animals are born with deformities or conditions of the joints and bones that cause abnormal movement and actually cause arthritic changes earlier in life. Things like hip and elbow dysplasia, luxating knee caps, and chondrodystrophy (think Dachshund, Bassett Hound, Corgi, etc) are pretty common and can be detected very early on and are well-known causes of OA.

Besides genetic and developmental causes, things like obesity and injury have been well established as causes of arthritis and are major contributors to OA in our aged pets.

If your pet falls into any of the categories that may cause inevitable OA, there is a way to try and prevent their pain for a long time. Specially formulated diets and supplements are both available that can help keep joints healthy and allow our pets to run like the wind for years. I will tell you, unfortunately, there is no control over the supplement market and not every pill is created equal, so it is best to stick with well-studied and guaranteed products to ensure that they will not only help your pet, but keep you from wasting you hard earned cash. My personal favorite supplement is called Dasuquin (available right here at FCAH) and it not only helps with joint health and lubrication, it has natural factors to help treat inflammation and pain associated with OA (virtually unheard of in most other joint supplements). I actually use it for one of my own dogs who suffered a fracture and unstable repair when he was young and has sever OA now that he is old, he still runs around my yard like a pup!! Not only that, my poor Tony is allergic to basically everything, but the Dasuquin uses hydrolyzed proteins, so he has no allergic reaction!!

Sometimes our pets’ pain can become extreme and require treatment. There are numerous modalities available to help them move more normally and keep that pep in their step. Most commonly NSAIDs, but also steroids, stem cell therapy, laser, physical therapy and acupuncture are utilized to alleviate pain. Drug therapy is by far the most common modality used to treat OA, but is does not come without side effects. I rarely recommend over the counter drugs to treat dogs (and NEVER for cats) as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) or generally considered toxic. Even aspirin at a “safe” dose can cause severe stomach ulceration. There are prescriptions, pet-friendly, NSAIDs available like Metacam, Previcox and Galliprant (a new medication with fewer side effects) which are very effective at alleviating pain in your arthritic pet.

Poor kitties are unfortunately harder to treat than dogs, but they still have hope. There are supplements and drugs available for them but they must be used with caution as their kidneys are very sensitive to many drugs and all OTC options are toxic.

So if you notice that Fido isn’t jumping up on the furniture, chasing the ball, or greeting you at the door, or that Petunia is lying around more than usual and having a hard time getting into the litter box, know that there is hope and there are options!! Bring them by and we can lay out a plan to keep them as comfortable as possible for years to come!