Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Just yesterday I watched my black lab, Grits, launch over a three-foot high fence like it was a small stick in her way, as she ran after a bumper I threw to her. Last week, from a dead standstill, she catapulted herself into the back of my pickup truck as if she were springing off a trampoline.
The sheer athleticism of so many dogs is just jaw dropping.
My favorite stories of canine athleticism come from a one-eyed dog named Houdini. His name was no mistake; no matter how high the fence or how long the leash, Houdini could escape from his backyard in Dunes West. He clearly had no real desire to leave his loving home because when left of his own volition, Houdini would return home after a few minutes. However, at least five times over a two year period, our office received a phone call from a concerned good Samaritan informing us that they had found a friendly, black, one-eyed dog roaming their street. After the third go round of the owner coming to pick him up we just started asking the caller to kindly walk him back home. I truly believe that Houdini’s shenanigans were more to prove that he was unstoppable than anything else. These companions of ours amaze us with their physical abilities but much like us humans, with age comes arthritis. Arthritis is defined as inflammation of the joints and can be further categorized into several types of arthritis such as osteoarthritis, septic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In dogs and cats we primarily see osteoarthritis and it is the number one cause of chronic pain in dogs. It can be the result of poor genetics, injury or obesity coupled with age. Arthritis results in damaged cartilage, inflammation of surrounding tendons and ligaments, as well as small bony proliferations to attempt to stabilize an unstable joint. All of these changes result in pain.
We most often see this pain result in loss of enthusiasm for walks or runs, loss of desire to jump on the couch and into the car or an obvious lameness. I often hear clients say, “Fluffy is just slowing down a lot these days.” Although it is normal for aging pets to slow down a little, when I hear those words I immediately consider arthritis as a likely suspect.
The great news is that we have many effective treatments available to manage (but not cure) this disease. The most important factor to start with is to be sure your pet is not overweight. Every pound of excess weight is compounding the pain and inflammation. We also have many medications that can act as life-changing therapies. Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are amazing at restoring comfort in many dogs and remain the mainstay treatment after many years. Disease Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs (DMOADs) are excellent because they actually improve the quality of the joint compared to NSAIDSs, which only reduce the pain. Neutraceuticals, like omega fatty acids and glucosamine, have shown great promise as well.
Laser therapy is also a non-invasive, safe treatment that is showing positive results for arthritis. If you feel as though your dog or cat may have arthritis, please consult with your veterinarian to find out what treatment options are best for your furry family member. And next time you feel a little ache in your knee or shoulder before a thunderstorm, don’t forget that Fluffy there beside you may be feeling it too.
Dr. Jay Goldsmith is a veterinarian and owner of Park West Veterinary Associates in Mount Pleasant. You can find him at www.parkwestvet.com.