Caring For Our Arthritic Dogs

Is your dog moving around more slowly? Is he having difficulty lying down and getting up? Is she reluctant to climb stairs or hop into cars? Your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis – a painful degenerative joint disease.  Osteoarthritis is more common in older, larger and working dogs due to wear and tear. It can also arise from obesity, trauma or birth defects such as abnormally formed hips. 


SIGNS OF PAIN can be SUBTLE AND DIFFICULT TO DIAGNOSE

Chronic pain due to age-related disorders like osteoarthritis usually develops slowly. It can be hard to detect because some animals learn to tolerate and live with the pain.

Chronic pain can create a “stress response” associated with elevations of cortisol. This may reduce the patient’s immune response, leading to infection & slower healing.

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease occurs with age when the cartilage between bones wears down over time.

OUR PETS CANNOT TELL US IN WORDS WHEN THEY ARE IN PAIN

Watch our pets closely to detect signs of arthritic pain:

  • reluctance to walk or play
  • stiffness and lameness
  • difficulty lying down or getting up
  • difficulty climbing stairs
  • unusually quiet or withdrawn
  • biting or snapping when touched
  • appetite loss

Have your vet perform a physical examination & take X-rays to check for degenerative joint changes.

SPEAK WITH YOUR VET ABOUT MANAGING ARTHRITIS WITH:
  • Medications (anti-inflammatories and pain relief)
  • Cartrophen injections (a disease modifying drug to reduce adverse effects of osteoarthritis)
  • Supplements (e.g. glucosamine, chondroitin, omega oils)
  • Physical therapy (e.g. hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, massage)
  • Acupuncture

“Acupuncture has been used in animals for at least 3000 years. It is commonly used to manage conditions such as degenerative joint disease (arthritis) and intervertebral disc disease. A typical session, including a physical checkup, lasts up to 30 minutes.”

Acupuncture is available at Mount Pleasant (East) with Dr Audrey Loi, Mount Pleasant (Changi) with Dr Pauline Fong and Mount Pleasant (North) with Dr Jimson Chan. Read more about veterinary acupuncture

Hydrotherapy with trained hydrotherapists can help your arthritic dogs lose weight (if they are overweight) & strengthen leg muscles. The buoyancy of water reduces stress on joints & relieves pain & stiffness.

IF YOUR dog SUFFERS FROM CHRONIC arthritic PAIN, BASIC LIFESTYLE CHANGES CAN OFFER RELIEF.

  • Extra weight increases stress on the joints. Keep your dogs trim with a healthy diet and low impact exercises.
  • Provide gently-sloped ramps to access gardens or get in and out of cars.
  • Raise food and water bowls to a comfortable level to reduce neck or back strain.
  • Lay non-slip mats around the house to help your dog get up and walk more easily .
  • Provide comfortable and supportive beds.

There are ready-made elevated bowls & stands or you can place the bowls on non-slip stools.

A note on EXERCISe – too little or too much
  • Regardless of age or extent of arthritis, it is important to keep our dogs fit and mobile. Engage your dogs in regular low impact exercises to reduce stiffness and improve flexibility. Massage their muscles daily to relieve any tightness.
  • Follow your dog’s pace.. Take it slow and easy. It is better to do a few short sessions of exercise (e.g. three 10-minute sessions a day) rather than one long session.

Do not over-exert our dogs no matter how enthusiastic they appear. Excessive running, jumping or swimming can cause injuries to joints & bones.

Check & trim your dog’s nails regularly. Overgrown nails can cause pain, change the way your dog walks & place abnormal stress on the joints. Take your dog to the vet or groomer if you are inexperienced in nail trimming.

5-month-young Capers went through a surgery called Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis

Some puppies, unfortunately, are genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia. Capers’ hind legs were stiff and he was bunny hopping more frequently. X-rays confirmed he had mild hip dysplasia which can lead to painful arthritic hip degeneration in later years. Treated early, dogs like Capers can lead a full life. Get behind the scenes here.

(Left): Dog with normal hips versus (Right): Dog with osteoarthritis

“Prevention is better than cure” is especially true for senior pets as age predisposes them to certain diseases. At Mount Pleasant, we emphasise total wellness & preventive healthcare so that our pets live longer, healthier lives. Speak with our vets about annual health screens for our cats & dogs.