Capitola Veterinary Hospital’s very own Dr. Katie Volat (formerly Gilligan) has published an article in the Capitola Soquel Times! In the article, “Joyful Joints”, she addresses arthritis, what it is, and what we can do about it to help our beloved animals. Dr. Volat also goes into some details about the new and exciting treatments that are out there these days to treat arthritis. Stem Cell Therapy and Laser Therapy have both been proven to be successful methods of treatment and are offered here at Capitola Veterinary Hospital!
How would your pet tell you he has arthritis?
Cats and dogs are very different from us when it comes to expressing pain. They do not complain about it as well as we do! My clients usually tell me; “My dog lost interest in play” Or “She takes much longer to stand up, particularly in the morning”. For cats, the symptoms can be even more subtle. They may stop jumping to high places or may have difficulty performing the simple task of stepping inside the litter box. These are all signs that your pet may be suffering from arthritis. The good news is we now have a number of new and exciting treatments for this condition that every pet owner needs to know about.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis means inflammation inside joints. It can start at any age, but is more commonly seen in older pets. Untreated, it can lead to poor quality of life. The earlier it is recognized the easier it will be to slow down the progression and to provide your pet with more pain-free quality years.
What Can We Do?
If you notice signs of arthritis, first have your pet examined by your veterinarian. An exam and x-rays are the best ways to diagnose arthritis. Many other musculoskeletal problems mimic arthritis so don’t skip step 1 before starting treatment.
Weight management. Obesity exacerbates arthritis. Painful pets will exercise less and gain weight. Weigh your pet regularly to ensure pounds are not sneaking on. Pets will need far less pain medication at their ideal weight. Ask your veterinarian to assist your pet with a weight loss plan.
Exercise. The old adage “move it or lose it” applies. Once your pet stops regular exercise, healthy muscle is lost which is crucial in supporting arthritic joints and is difficult or impossible to replace as pets age. Pets with arthritis require a modified exercise routine. For example, taking shorter but more frequent walks throughout the day (three 20 minute walks vs. a 1 hour hike).
Environmental Modification. Slippery floors, stairs, and high jumps into the car or off furniture can be disastrous. Use slip-proof rugs or carpet runners. A small set of stairs or ramp can help an older pet climb onto furniture or into a vehicle. For cats, switch to a litter box with a cut out entry.
Supplements, such as omega fatty acids are natural, safe and well tolerated by most animals. Choose a source from “whole fish” rather than cod liver. Brands with sustainable fishing methods (i.e. Nordic Natural or Wild Alaskan) will ensure grandchildren can give their pets fish oil. Your veterinarian can help you select from the dozens of other supplements that can reduce the need for medications. Be patient! Benefits are usually not seen for 4-8 weeks.
Chondroprotective Injections are medications containing a building block of joints. They are administered at home or by your veterinarian as a series. The benefits include increased cartilage repair, and reduced inflammation.
Laser Therapy works by reducing pain and inflammation while accelerating healing. Lasers are side-effect free alternatives; particularly for pets whose health issues limit their ability to take medications.
Stem Cell Therapy has shown to be helpful in reducing the need for medications. 100% of the patients treated with stem cell therapy at our hospital have shown improvement according to their owners. This three step process has proven to be extremely safe since the pets own cells stem cells are utilized.
Pain medication can improve mobility and quality of life. There are many safe and effective options. However, pets are not people! Human medications can cause serious illness in pets. Pet medications can be compounded into flavored liquids or treats to make administration easy for finicky pets. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) are extremely effective for many dogs and are sometimes used for cats. They work by suppressing inflammatory biochemicals that cause pain and more cartilage damage. I recommend monitoring kidney and liver Health with blood work before starting, and periodically while using, NSAIDS.
Analgesic (pain relieving) medications such as Tramadol and Gabapentin are also effective, in conjunction with or alone, for pets who can’t tolerate NSAIDS. These medications block pain perception but do not reduce inflammation.
Surgery can provide relief when other options have failed. Surgical specialists within Santa Cruz County offer a variety of surgical options to pets with severe arthritis.
Combine Treatments for Best Results
The best results are obtained by using multiple different modalities that can be adjusted over time. Don’t be discouraged if something isn’t working. Work with your veterinarian to choose the next step. Together you can develop a plan for Joyful Joints!
For more in depth discussion check out this informative link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/mi7ozhv8bec9k05/Arthritis.pdf
Katie Volat, DVM
Contact Dr. Katie Volat or Dr. River May at the Capitola Veterinary Hospital: Capvet1@gmail.com