Enfield Veterinary Hospital
94 Coronation Parade
Enfield, NSW, 2136

Phone: 02 9747 3999
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To All the Friends of Enfield Vet and their Pets,

This month's newsletter focuses on the issue of osteoarthritis in pets.

This is an incredibly common issue in most older dogs and cats - and sometimes in younger animals too. A common issue, however, that can be easily managed by your vet so that your pet does not need to suffer from the chonic and crippling pain that is very often associtaed with arthritis.

The treatments for arthritis are multifactorial and are discussed at length in this newsletter.

If you have any questions after reading all the info feel free to call or make an appointment to have your pet assessed.

The Team at Enfield Vet Hospital

bone joint pain pic
Contents of this newsletter

01  Does your dog have arthritis?

02  Cats are the best at hiding arthritis

03  Top tips for managing arthritis

04  Managing Obesity

05  Cruciate ligament disease

06  The dog who mastered interior painting

01 Does your dog have arthritis?

Arthritis is a sneaky condition. It tends to creep up over time and our pets won't always show obvious signs until they are in considerable pain. 

The disease is caused by the wearing down of the cartilage that covers the bones at the end of a joint. This 'cushioning' cartilage helps joints move freely and without discomfort but as it wears down, the ends of the bones become exposed and can rub together. You can imagine the pain this might cause your pet! 

It is very important to understand that your pet won’t necessarily limp or yelp or whimper if he is in pain.

Most of the signs of arthritic pain are subtle and here's what you should watch out for if you own a dog (we'll cover cats in more detail below): 

  • Hesitant to jump into the car or up on furniture
  • Slowing down on walks or a reluctance to walk as far 
  • A bit slow to get going after getting up 
  • Lowers his body slowly when going to lie down 
  • Behavioural changes e.g. grumpy when touched on the back
  • Slipping on floorboards or hesitant to use stairs

Don’t be tempted to put these changes down to 'he's just getting old' as your pet may be in significant pain - he just can't tell you!

Thankfully there is now a number of things we can do to slow the progression of the disease and keep your pet pain free.

Phone us to arrange an arthritis check up and we'll be able to work out a suitable treatment plan for your pet. 

02 Cats are the best at hiding arthritis

Cats are even better than dogs at hiding or covering up pain caused by arthritis. If you think about it, cats spend much of their time sleeping and we generally don't take cats for a walk, so it is hard to see a change in their mobility.

Try to keep an eye out for these subtle signs:

  • Landing 'in a heap' when jumping off furniture 
  • Hesitant when jumping up or down from the furniture
  • Reluctant to climb the fence or trees
  • No longer using the litter box properly (especially if it has high sides)
  • Resistant to being picked up or moved
  • Matted or scruffy coat (as grooming is painful)
  • Long nails - simply because of reduced activity

If you notice any of these signs you should arrange a check up with us.

Good pain management can make a huge difference to your cat's quality of life and this is one of the most important things we can do for our pets. 

03 Top tips for managing arthritis

If we’ve diagnosed your pet with arthritis we will work with you to come up with the best management plan to keep your pet pain free.

The key to success is a multi-targeted approach as this can help reduce the need for large amounts of medication and lessen the potential side effects of any one treatment.

Things YOU can do: 

  • Keep your pet’s weight in a healthy range  - ask us for a diet recommendation
  • Exercise your pet in moderation to keep the joints moving and muscles toned
  • Think about getting a portable ramp to help your dog in and out of the car
  • Provide an additional piece of furniture so your dog or cat doesn't have to jump so high to reach his favourite spot

Medical treatments might include:

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): these help to reduce pain and inflammation quickly and may be used in the short or even long term.

Disease-modifying drugs: given as a regular injection, these help to relieve pain and help to preserve joint cartilage - ask us for more information.

Nutriceuticals: supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin may be helpful in improving your pet’s joint function and may help slow down the progression of arthritis.

Diet modification: a diet high in essential fatty acids (with added nutriceuticals) can help reduce inflammation and improve your pet’s mobility. Ask us about the specific arthritis prescription diets we have available.

Don't forget, it’s absolutely essential you return with your pet for regular check ups so we can monitor their pain and mobility and adjust the program if necessary.

04 Managing Obesity

In itself, a dog carrying too much weight is not a big health issue. When your dog grows older, however, having a heavy body weight exerts excessive pressure on joints and consequentially worsen any underlying joint conditions or arthritis. Therefore, it is crucial to recognise that your dog is overweight and address the issue.

Other than exercising, it is also important to put your dog on a specific calorie-restricted diet to manage obesity! You can use calorie restricted home-cooked meals and there are also prescription weight loss diets (dry and wet food) that are readily available to manage your pet’s weight.

It is crucially important that any weight loss diet is low in fat and calories. A low calorie diet helps your dog to reduce body fat while maintaining satiety. High fibre content is also a feature to reduce calorie intake to trigger satiety and avoid hunger as well as providing benefits for dogs with diabetes, colitis and constipation. Addition of certain amino acids, such as carnitine and lysine, also helps dogs to metabolize fat for energy production and maintain lean body mass.

Dogs on diet should have strictly controlled daily food intake. In other words, correct daily feeding amounts and restricted treats are necessary to achieve good results. When you place you dog on a restricted calorie-controlled diet we also need to remember to encourage your dog to an appropriate amount of water and have regular exercise.

If you any an further questions on weight loss plans or would like to start your dog on a calorie restricted diet please contact the hospital and speak to one of our vets or nurses. 

05 Cruciate ligament disease

One of the most common injuries we see in dogs is a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. This is the same injury seen in many a footballer - the notorious ACL, and it can can lead to dramatic arthritis in your dog's knee if it is not treated effectively.

Many dogs will 'snap' the ligament after suddenly jumping off a height or turning quickly. These dogs present to us non weight bearing on the injured hind leg. As cruciate disease can also be a progressive and degenerative condition, other dogs will present with a mild, intermittent lameness and chronic thickening of the joint. 

Examination of a dog under sedation or general anaesthetic will help diagnose the condition and we are able to detect movement in the knee that should not be there if the ligament was healthy. Radiographs will also assist in identifying arthritic changes and evidence of swelling within and around the knee joint. 

Surgery to stabilise the knee joint is the best option for treatment. Some small dogs may respond to conservative treatment, such as rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication but due to instability in the joint, the risk of developing painful arthritis is high.

There are a few different surgical techniques for cruciate ligament repair and new procedures are continually being developed. If your dog ruptures his cruciate ligament, we will be able to give you more information on the most suitable type of surgery. 

It is important to realise that arthritis may still develop in the affected joint following surgery, but will be significantly reduced than if surgery was not performed.

If you are worried about your pet please call us for advice. 

06 The dog who mastered interior painting

Have you ever wondered what might happen when you leave a dog home alone for 3 hours with an ink pot? We think you'll laugh (and shudder at the same time) when you see what this husky got up to...

Thank goodness we weren't the ones cleaning this mess up! 

Click here to see the photos and read more about this aspiring artist.