Vet Watch


Joint disease in pets, particularly dogs, is one of the most common reasons they will be taken to a vet. As you would expect, older pets are most commonly afflicted, but that’s not always the case. In fact, pets of any age can have joint pain. By joint pain I generally mean degenerative Joint Disease ( DJD or Osteoarthritis ) .

The causes of DJD can be many. Some breeds are prone to developmental or congenital defects that can predispose them to severe arthritis. The classics are Hip Dysplasia and Cartilage defects such as OCD. A predisposition to these problems is made much worse by poor diet, excessive growth rates (ie big roly poly pups) in the early months of life and lack of exercise.

Other cases of joint disease may be due to overuse injuries, sports injuries left unattended, cruciate ligament injury, old traumas such as road accidents or conformation problems that predispose to wear and tear (such as bow legs, luxating patellas or deformity from early joint trauma).

Whatever the cause, DJD is generally chronic, progressive and incurable. There are however  many things you can do to improve a pet’s quality of life and slow down its progression.

The first thing is to get some weight off your chubby pet. A small reduction can make a huge difference.

In line with this, its also very important to maintain some regular activity for your pet. Exercise should be appropriate (eg walking on stable surfaces, swimming). Avoid the full tilt kamakazi ball-chasing that’s likely to end in tears and lameness.

Dietry supplements also may be helpful….specifically fish oil, which can be trialed for 6 to 8 weeks to see if it helps. A well balanced diet, especially with reference to Calcium and Phosphorous levels is also essential.

In most cases, long-term medication is going to be needed to maintain pain-free joints or at least maximise quality of life. Dogs have more options than cats in this regard, as the mainstay of chronic joint disease treatment involves non-steroidal anti-inflamatory drugs, or NSAIDS. These are given on a daily basis, or in some cases monthly, and can make a big difference.

There are a range of other medications which may help, and in selected cases Acupuncture may also be of benefit. Lennox Head Vet Clinic now makes this available under Veterinary supervision via our nurse, Caroline!

No one treatment is likely to be successful by itself, so its important to discuss options with your Vet. Don’t wait until your pet is a cripple, since any lameness or gait compensation is due to pain, and the longer pain continues the more likely a phenomenon called  ‘Wind Up” will make your pet more and more sensitive to the discomfort of DJD. So, treat early, treat consistently and follow your vets recommendations and your furry mate should have a more active and enjoyable summer!

Cheers, Evan Kosack, Lennox Head Vet Clinic

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