Joint Inflammation: A Major Cause of Pain and Suffering in our Pets
Pain is heaven and also pain is hell.
Pain is north pole, pain is south pole.
In our life pain plays an important role.
~ Ramesh Kavdia
There are few things more upsetting than watching a pet that used to jump from the bed to the couch, jump in and out of the pool, run up a flight of stairs, and chase a ball for hours all of a sudden develop joint pain and can now hardly move. I have personally taken many phone calls from teary eyed owners who just don’t know what to do to stop the suffering. When I hang up after one of those calls I usually just stare at the phone for about 5 minutes in silence and try my best to come to terms with the role of suffering and pain in the bigger scheme of things. I always believed that if someone can feel such great compassion for a pet they must have a great big heart with lots of love residing in it. Today I will discuss Arthritis, Hip Dysplasia, and some pros and cons of the various medications that are used to treat these very painful disorders.
Arthritis is defined as an inflammation of the joint. Pain is caused when that inflamed joint is moved around. The most common cause of arthritis is lipid compounds called prostaglandins. Most prostaglandins have a beneficial role in regulating cells and organs, body temperature, and nerve transmission; other prostaglandins are not so beneficial and play a vital role in causing inflammation. Therefore, anti-inflammatory agents are a class of drugs that are most commonly used in treatment of this inflammation. Arthritis that is caused by bone is called osteoarthritis, if caused by infection it’s called septic, and if caused by the body attacking itself its called rheumatoid arthritis.
Some examples of the symptoms associated with arthritis include painful limping, difficulty rising, difficulty with stairs, being aggressive when petted, and loss of interest in walking or playing.
Hip Dysplasia is an abnormal development of the hips which results in an increased amount of looseness in the hip joint. The hip joint is unstable and the instability leads to inflammation and to calcium deposition in an attempt by the body to stabilize the joint. Hip dysplasia is an inherited trait which generally develops over time.
A lack of motivation to move, stiffness, not liking to be picked up, difficulty rising, back legs kept close together, falling over when squatting to urinate or defecate, or thigh muscle wasting are some of the symptoms of hip dysplasia.
Some Treatments for Arthritis and Hip Dysplasia:
- Weight management is the first thing that must be addressed. All surgical and medical procedures will be more beneficial if the animal is not overweight.
- Exercise is the next important step. Exercise that provides for good range of motion and muscle building and limits wear and tear on the joints is the best. Leach walking , swimming, and walking on a treadmill are excellent low-impact exercises.
- Warmth and good sleeping areas helps with the arthritis symptoms and providing a firm, orthopedic foam bed helps many dogs and cats with both arthritis and hip dysplasia.
- Physical therapy can also help maintain good range of motion and relax stiff muscles.
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin are not pain killers but have been used with some success by giving the cartilage-forming cells the building blocks they need to synthesize new cartilage and to repair the existing damaged cartilage. Glucosamine is a major sugar and may have a role in synthesizing and maintaining cartilage in the joint. Chondroitin inhibits damaging enzymes in the joint. Many people have found Super Joint Enhancer, a product which contains both Glucosamine and Chondroitin, very beneficial for their pets with arthritis and hip dysplasia.
- Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan (Adequan) is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent that helps prevent the breakdown of cartilage and may help with the synthesis of new cartilage. It also helps to relieve pain. Adequan is usually given weekly for 5 weeks and very often has shown favorable results.
- Aspirin is a Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory and painkiller. Aspirin should not be given to cats unless prescribed by a veterinarian. It is very easy to overdose this medication in cats. With dogs it is still recommended to discuss this product with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet can safely handle this medication. Most pets will need to be monitored while on this medication. This product is also available in a chewable easy to administer form called Excel Aspirin
- Other Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) include Carprofen (Rimadyl), Etodolac (Etogesic), deracoxib (Deramaxx), Ketoprofen, and Meloxicam (Metacam). All of these products are used to help with the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis and hip dysplasia. Each of these medications have their own strengths and weaknesses and your veterinarian is the best person to select the proper medication for your particular pet. With some of these medication regular routine blood tests and monitoring is recommended.
- Corticosteroids, such as prednisone and prednisolone, have been used for many years to treat pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and hip dysplasia. They are potent anti-inflammatory agents, but have many short and long term side effects (ie. Immunosuppression). Corticosteroids are generally only used in older animals with flare-ups where all other pain control products have failed.
It is very important to develop and maintain a good relationship with your veterinarian so that he or she knows exactly what your pet is suffering from and provides proper follow-up treatment and prescribes the appropriate medication. In some cases where the disease has progressed to a certain degree your veterinarian may suggest surgery to replace the hip joint. All surgery involves certain risks and medications have different side effect profiles, different dosing, and therapeutic properties. Your vet is in the best position to decide on the procedure as well as the medication required to keep your pet safe. Most of these medications require regular monitoring and lab tests to ensure that the internal organs of the pet are not getting damaged. Also, as always, you can call your 1800PetMeds pharmacist to help answer any of your medication related questions.