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  • unusually quiet or withdrawn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.

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Introducing Veterinary Acupuncture

WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into specific points of the body to cause a desired healing effect. This technique has been used in animals for at least 3000 years to treat a wide range of ailments. The American Veterinary Medical Association recognises veterinary acupuncture as a valid modality within the field of veterinary medicine and surgery.

HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?

A healthy body is said to be in a state of balance or homeostasis. Illness and/or injury can be the cause or result of the body being unbalanced. Acupuncture works primarily through the central nervous system to affect all major physiological systems such as musculoskeletal, hormonal and cardiovascular  to restore the body’s proper homeostatic state via pain relief and numerous other beneficial functional effects.

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Bobi the Goldie has not been eating well for the past few days. Dr Jimson Chan of Mount Pleasant Animal Clinic (North) has inserted an acupuncture needle into the top of Bobi’s nose to stimulate his appetite. The other needle on Bobi’s head helps to calm him down.

IS ACUPUNCTURE PAINFUL?

Acupuncture needles are significantly finer than standard needles used for injections such as vaccination. In companion animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless and there is no pain when the needles are in place. Most animals become very relaxed and sleepy during treatment.

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An acupuncture needle has a rounded (not beveled) tip to slide smoothly through tissues, making it less painful or traumatic.

IS ACUPUNCTURE SAFE?

Acupuncture is performed with sterile thin stainless steel needles. Acupuncture works by stimulating the body’s own system of healing. Needle placement is into the superficial muscles only, with depth up to 5mm in a large breed dog.

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HOW LONG & OFTEN ARE ACUPUNCTURE SESSIONS?

The length and frequency of acupuncture treatment depends on the patient and the condition being treated. Typical sessions, including a physical checkup, lasts up to 30 minutes. Dogs and cats are usually treated weekly, with positive responses observable within 4 sessions. Simple acute problems may only require one treatment. Chronic conditions may need 3 to 6 sessions to obtain a maximum response before maintenance sessions are scheduled at regular intervals (e.g. monthly) or as necessary when the symptoms recur.

WHAT CONDITIONS RESPOND TO ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture is commonly indicated in cases of functional musculoskeletal problems such as degenerative joint disease (arthritis) and intervertebral disc disease (spinal) resulting in pain and inflammation that can manifest as behavioural changes (irritability, depression), reluctance to participate in normal activities (standing, walking, jumping), limping and paralysis.

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Misty the Siberian Husky was diagnosed with osteoarthritis by her regular vet and managed with monthly Cartrophen injections and weekly hydrotherapy sessions. She was referred for outpatient acupuncture treatment with Dr Pauline Fong at Mount Pleasant Veterinary Centre (Changi). 4 to 6 sessions of dry needle acupuncture at weekly intervals was prescribed.

On the 5th & last session, Ms Tan reported that Misty displayed behaviours not observed in almost 1 year. She is playing with Shiro, sprinting & jumping onto the bed. Most importantly, she gets up to greet Ms Tan when she comes home! Misty is maintained on dry needle acupuncture once every 3 to 4 weeks.

Congo the West Highland White Terrier is responding well to acupuncture for his persistent cough.

Congo the West Highland White Terrier is responding well to acupuncture for his persistent cough.

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13-year-old Snowy was knuckling & experiencing hindlimb weakness – signs of intervertebral disc disease. Due to her age plus kidney & liver issues, she is not a good candidate for surgery.

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Snowy comes to Mount Pleasant Animal Clinic (East) for regular electro-acupuncture sessions with Dr Audrey Loi. Her right hindlimb is getting stronger & she is able to stand & walk short distances on her own. In electro-acupuncture, electrodes are attached to the needles to produce a gentle current to stimulate the flow of energy or Qi more aggressively.

acupuncture has been & can be used in combination with conventional western medicine to hasten recovery and/or form part of the management of almost any medical or surgical condition.
  • Minor medical ailments : otitis externa (ear infection) and pain/stress relief after routine sterilisation surgery.
  • Major medical ailments: Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (blocked urinary bladder) and haemorrhagic gastroenteritis (bloody diarrhoea).
  • Emergency distressing diseases: vestibular syndrome (“stroke”) and resuscitation of collapsed animals.
CAN ACUPUNCTURE HELP IN WEIGHT MANAGEMENT?

In conventional Western veterinary medicine, recent studies suggest that obesity causes metabolic dysfunction, resulting in chronic low grade inflammation, thus predisposing the pet to health problems.

In traditional Chinese veterinary medicine, obesity is usually a result of Spleen Qi deficiency resulting in Dampness. The treatment principle would be to expel the Damp and tonify the Spleen. Thus, the theoretical answer is yes.

* Article contributed by Dr Pauline Fong, Mount Pleasant Veterinary Centre (Changi) with additional inputs from editor. 

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“TCM recognises that there is a vital energy known as Qi that flows through the body. Qi is responsible for controlling harmony in the body (health) and maintaining the balance between body, mind & spirit. Disease is a result of an imbalance of Qi in the body. Acupuncture is believed to help balance this energy.” ~ Dr Audrey Loi of Mount Pleasant Animal Clinic (East) also has an interest in traditional Chinese medicine and is one of the first International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) certified veterinarians in Singapore. Pictured here with Princess the Westie who has since flown off to Hong Kong with her lovely family.