Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Arthritic symptoms in dogs often hidden by survival instinct

In medical terms arthritis means "inflammation of the joint" and osteoarthritis is the most common. This progressive condition causes cartilage covering the ends of bones in the pet's joints to deteriorate and the resulting pain and loss of movement arise as bones begin to rub together. Interesting enough, many dog owners may not detect their pet is suffering from arthritis because most animals have evolved to hide symptoms of pain as it marks them out as weakened and therefore a target.
Dr. Mike Small, DVM at the Forrest Hill Vet Clinic in NZ says this survival instinct makes it very difficult for dog owners to detect a problem with arthritis. He adds, by the time a dog is limping it may mean it is in a lot of pain and advises pet owners to look for changes in their dog's behavior, either physically or in their demeanor.
"Your pet may have trouble getting up from resting and will often start off with a limp. But, as the joints warm up and the dog gets going, the limp can sometimes disappear, so don't be fooled. Your dog may also lie down more often, be reluctant to walk, climb stairs, jump or play. Temperamentally they may become withdrawn, sensitive and guarded."
Arthritis is common, especially in aging and larger dogs. Overweight dogs are also prone to arthritis as joints wear out faster because of excess weight bearing down on them.
Dr. Small also says it is important with the onset of warmer spring weather and pet owners themselves coming out of winter hibernation they should ease their dog into an increased exercise regime. If a dog is prone to or has arthritis, symptoms may be triggered by sudden activity.
One year of human life is equivalent to six or seven years of a dog's life. Older dogs, aged six to eight years onward, commonly start showing symptoms of the disease, but dogs as young as a few months of age can start suffering symptoms due to degenerative joint disease. Make sure your vet always looks for signs of arthritis when you go in for your routine check up.
Like most vets, Dr. Small recommends bi-annual health examinations. During those they examine all the joints and see if they can detect any pain or discomfort. They also gather information from the owner and discuss with them any changes they may have noticed in their dog's behavior.
Dr. Karen Johnston, D.V.M. (since we don’t do any advertising here I am not going to say for whom she works, but it is a pet food manufacturer) says following a diagnosis of arthritis by a veterinarian, small changes to the way a pet is treated can make a huge difference in alleviating the painful symptoms of the condition.
She points out: "Even though arthritis is degenerative, progression can be slowed with proper care, including adequate nutrition. Symptoms can be eased with the help of observant and caring owners. By talking to a vet, you can determine how to best help the dog stay active for as long as possible. A soft, comfortable sleeping place is important for all dogs, but especially an arthritic dog. An old mattress or soft couch is ideal because it'll prevent your dog's limbs from coming into contact with the cold, hard ground."
She also advises pet owners to take their dogs on limited, gentle exercise like regular walks around the block, while physical therapy such as swimming can also be very beneficial.
"Not only does exercise keep your dog's joints active, but it assists in weight control, which means fewer kilos for your pet to lug around on sore limbs," says Dr Johnston.
As well as exercising a dog, proper nutrition is an essential component for their health. Medications, including anti inflammatories used in conjunction with animal physiotherapy can also aid in treatment.
And since I haven’t contributed too much of knowledge today, if you need help on proper nutrition for your dog under this condition, e-mail me. Scoop Culture Independent News, a New Zealand Independent News Media inspired me to today’s comment.

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