If a dog tires easily, limps, is slow to rise, or is reluctant to climb stairs, run, or jump, canine osteoarthritis may be the cause. Osteoarthritis involves an inflammatory response, cartilage degeneration, and loss of collagen and nutrients in the joints. Primary canine osteoarthritis seems to result from the inability of joint cartilage to repair itself in response to the effects of ageing, trauma, genetic makeup, and wear. Secondary canine osteoarthritis is caused by joint malformation such as hip dysplasia, ligament or tendon injuries, and/or obesity. Obesity is one of the most prevalent factors in both the development and the worsening of degenerative joint disease. Age, injury, illness, and excess weight directly influence joint destruction and the body’s ability to regenerate joint tissue.
Since osteoarthritis develops gradually over time, it is important to pick up on any early signs that a dog may show. Common signs are sluggishness; low activity; reluctance to walk, run, jump, play, or climb stairs; soreness; and behavior changes. As with people, dogs can also have flare-ups and may be symptomatic for anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. One may think short-term flare-ups are due to a muscle injury or soreness, when in actuality, damage is going on inside the joint. Short-term flare-ups are often seen after a dog has had more activity than it normally would or an event occurs that places excessive stress on the arthritic joint. They also are a part of the normal course of osteoarthritis and over time become more frequent and more severe, and tend to last longer.
A healthy joint consists of cartilage that covers and protects the ends of the bones in the joint. Cartilage provides smooth surfaces for unrestricted joint movement and acts as the principal shock absorber when joints are under stress. Cartilage has no nerves, so when it comes into contact with the cartilage of another bone, no pain is felt. Lubrication and nourishment are essential to the structural integrity of cartilage. As with all components of the body, joint tissue (including cartilage) is continually broken down and rebuilt in response to stressors. As cartilage breaks down and wears away, bone is eventually exposed. Bones do have nerves, so when two bones touch, a dog feels pain greatly, affecting its quality of life. When bones continually rub against each other, they will eventually change shape. Bone reshaping can make it difficult or sometimes impossible for a dog to move naturally.
There are several options and combinations of treatment available for canine osteoarthritis. One’s veterinarian should be consulted to determine whether a dog has this disease and then discuss options based on the dog’s needs. The dog’s prescription for management of this disease is individual, based on the severity of symptoms and other diagnostic test results.
One of the most promising treatments available is the use of glycosaminoglycans. There are nine major classes of glycosaminoglycans and they are essential for joint lubrication, as well as cartilage maintenance and repair. Glycosaminoglycans occur in the ground substance of connective tissue. Through aging, and by trauma or disease, these can dry out or become displaced. Ask a veterinarian about Adequan Canine (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan). Adequan Canine is a prescription water-based, polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, given as an injection that helps prevent the cartilage in a dog’s joint from wearing away. It helps keep the cartilage healthy and intact.
Class IV laser therapy has also proven to be very successful in pain management. The companion therapy laser uses a deep-penetrating beam of light that stimulates injured cells to heal at a faster rate and reduces pain and inflammation. Pain relief is achieved through the release of endorphins and as a result of other cellular responses that lead to a state of analgesia, as well as reduce inflammation. Studies have scientifically proven that laser therapy reduces pain and inflammation, and stimulates nerve regeneration, muscle relaxation, and an immune response.
Laser therapy is not a replacement for medical care but complements it, increasing healing time and often reducing the amount of medication and supplements needed.
At Damariscotta Veterinary Clinic, we feel that preventing and managing pain is a fundamental part of compassionate and quality care, which we strive to give your pet on a daily basis. We have used the companion therapy laser on many patients with great success. Call the clinic for more information or to set up an appointment.