An older black Labrador with a white muzzle walks stiffly into the exam room, he greets me with a tail wag, then gingerly sits down. When I ask the owner how his dog has been doing, he says he’s getting older and slowing down a bit.
The owner clearly loves his dog and wants to keep him comfortable. He sees “slowing down” as a normal part of aging – and as we all know, not much can be done about getting older.
But something can be done about the real culprit, which is often arthritis. Arthritis can make a pet act older because it hurts.
A good chunk of senior pets, both dogs and cats, have arthritis. Stiffness, limping, not wanting to go on walks, no longer getting up to greet you, trouble getting up from lying down, or trouble sitting or getting into the lying position are all signs of painful joints. Other clues are weakness, tripping, falling, or a dog that just can’t walk as far or as fast as he used to.
Diagnosing arthritis is most accurately done with x-rays, but a knowledgeable clinician can make an educated guess based on watching the pet walk and palpation for range of motion and pain level. Radiographs can confirm arthritis, but also are important to rule out other more serious problems that can mimic arthritis pain, like cancer.
Treating arthritis pain can take different approaches. Some people prefer using drugs with a strong effect that may require more monitoring, others prefer a more natural, drug-free approach. Then there is integrative care, the middle ground which combines the two.
Some options are:
Arthritis is a disease that should be addressed like any other. Effective care for arthritis pain can be key to achieving higher quality of life for older pets. A happy and mobile pet who is able to continue doing the things he loves to do with you, is the result. True, it’s hard to keep pets from getting older, but there is hope for improving pain from arthritis.
For questions about how to help your dog or cat cope with pain from arthritis, please contact Heal Integrative Vet Med at 530-539-4516 or contact us here.