Parker County Today August 2017 - Page 59

our advice: ASK DR. CATE Vet Rap by Dr. Ryan Cate Putting the “spring” Back into Your Older Pet’s Step Question: Dear Dr. Cate: I have an older Springer Spaniel and our vet said he was suffering from arthritis in his joints. What is available that might help him get the spring back in his step? Answer: Many older animals, like people, suffer with osteo- arthritis. This type is the most common form of arthritis, affecting a quarter of animals, according to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage that covers and protects the ends of bones within the joint capsule begins to wear away. Some arthritis in animals occurs because of other orthopedic problems, like hip or elbow dysplasia or ligament disease within multiple joints. However, some is of an unknown cause, which affects the smaller joints in older dogs. Like people, the issue can be exacerbated by genetics, age, bodyweight, obesity, gender, exer- cise and diet. Because the signs are nonspecific and could be caused by a number of things, owners should look for impairment in your animal’s overall activity level. If your pet begins to be reluctant to exer- cise, has decreased its overall activity, suffers from stiffness or lameness, has a change in its gait, or unable to jump as it did before, it might be caused by osteoarthritis. Some animals also present with pain which can cause behavior changes or general signs of discomfort. The diagnosis is made from both a physi- cal exam and a type of diagnostic imaging, not limited to radiology (x-ray), MRIs or CT scan. It also depends on the severity of the disease and the pain your pet is experiencing. First, your vet will do a physical exam to determine the affected joint or joints, moving on to diagnostic imaging to show tissue damage and changes in joints. The type of diagnostic imaging will be determined where the arthritis is located on your pet. Treatment for osteoarthritis is going to depend on where the pain and inflammation is occur- ring, as well as the severity of the symptoms. Medication is most likely going to be a part of the treatment plan. Some of the approaches can include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), pain medication, joint supplements, injections into the joints, and even surgical management. All medication should be used as directed by your veterinarian because severe side effects, including death, can be associated with misuse. Other improvements can be seen by weight control for overweight animals, and activity modi- fication that limits running and jumping that can cause more inflammation and pain. Even with treatment, osteoarthritis is a progres- sive disease and will only worsen with time. The treatments listed above can make the your pet more comfortable and have a great quality of life for years to come following the diagnosis of osteo- arthritis. 57