“He’s just getting older and slowing down some, other than that he is great.” I hear this a lot for older dogs and cats that come in. It might actually be a little more than simply getting older and having decreased energy. There may be some arthritis causing pain in those old joints.
First, we have to decide if the pet is slowing down because of arthritis or something else. Some signs of arthritis at home are going to be limping, trouble traveling up/down stairs, and trouble standing/sitting. A good physical is usually all we need to decide if we think some arthritis is occurring. We will find pain over certain spots we apply pressure or when we extend the hips out behind the pet. If we are not certain, or we want to check the severity, the next step is some x-rays of the area we think is affected. The x-rays will show us if there is some arthritis, and how bad it is. Once we have the diagnosis of arthritis, then we have to discuss the different steps of treatment.
As I have written about so much, a healthy weight is crucial! The other treatments later on will not work well without control of the weight. The excess weight applies a lot of strain on the joints. This causes the joints to break down pre-maturely. We first have to decide if the pet is overweight, and then decide the best plan to get the weight off. Diet and exercise are the most important aspects. There is another blog section about diet selection. Exercise helps to take some of the weight off, but it is also important to keep the pet moving. When a pet is sitting still, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments become constricted. This will cause even more pain when the pet tries to move. Movement throughout the house will help to keep them loose. The movement will also help to lose the weight. Rain and cold weather can also affect the joints, so you may notice a little more trouble moving during these times. Once we start working on the weight loss, we can discuss adding other treatment regiments.
Now is usually when we start talking about supplements. The most common supplement clients think of is Glucosamine. This has been around for a long time and people use it when they are having joint issues. The issue with Glucosamine by itself, is in the research. There have been multiple studies that have shown that it may only help a few people, and some of those people may have the placebo effect(or just think the medication is helping when it really is not). There is one main supplement I recommend. It is a product called Phycox. It gets the name from the phycocyanin in it, which is from algae that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. There are two formulations of this product. There is a Phycox One and a Phycox Max. The max has more nutrients in it that will benefit senior pets – more vitamins and minerals and cranberry extract to help with urinary health. The Phycox Max is our product for more senior pets that are having signs of arthritis. The Phycox One is our product for dogs that may be predisposed to arthritis – overweight dogs, early signs of hip dysplasia etc. The Phycox One will help to support the joints until it progresses enough to need a stronger supplement.
Once we begin these supplements, what if they aren’t enough to control the pain?
Many times we also have to discuss medication to help control the pain. This is when we discuss NSAIDs and other pain medications. We are NOT talking about human NSAIDs that you get from the store: Aleve, IBuprofen, etc. These medications can cause serious issues in your pets, so do not give any of these. There are many dog approved NSAIDs that we have and very few for cats. The main medications we use for dogs is Rimadyl, a generic form of Rimadyl, and Metacam. For cats we have a product called Onsior, but it is only approved for 3 days. What we do for cats generally involves steroids to help control the inflammation. The NSAIDs for dogs are generally safe for long time use, but have to be monitored closely. They can cause GI ulcers and kidney damage if not monitored. Another medication we use helps with pain control. The medication we use is Tramadol. It works on pain receptors in the brain and helps the pet to feel more relaxed. We usually save the Tramadol for the pets that are more painful.
Your old dog or cat will never be as energetic as it was when it was a puppy or a kitten, but we can definitely help them to feel better. By catching the signs early, we can be proactive with weight control, exercise and supplements to hold off severe arthritis as long as possible. Once the arthritis becomes more of an issue, there are stronger medications to help your pets feel good for as long as possible.