Our Blog

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06: Holiday Closures 2019
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02: OVC Pet Trust Fundraiser 2019
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07: The Threat of Tick-borne Diseases
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30: Raccoon Rabies reported in Hamilton, Ontario
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25: Our new, state of the art, Ultrasound machine
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01: Veterinary Technician Specialties in Dentistry!
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18: The Internet at its Best
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22: Cancer Awareness Month - Ruby's Story
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26: Veterinary Dentistry in San Diego!
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22: The 15 Steps to Your Pet's Dental Cleaning!
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December 2013
27: Dentistry in New Orleans!
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04: A Potential Mandible Fracture - A Tale on Missing Teeth
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11: Tried and True, For Humans Too!
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20: Therapeutic Laser's Beneficial Effects on Arthritis
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25: 5th Annual Pet Education Day and Open House!
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29: We've Brought 'Light' into our Clinic!
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21: Small Dogs Require Big Dental Care!
08: Missing Teeth in Your Pets - Should You Be Worried?
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13: Periodontal (Dental) Disease in our Pets
December 2012
19: Senior Month - It's Not Just Old Age!
04: Senior Month - A Focus on Kidney Disease
November 2012
15: Farley Month a Huge Success!
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27: Possessive Aggression in our Dogs
22: Thinking of Breeding Your Dog? Here Are Some Things To Consider First
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September 2012
20: Litter Boxes - Everyone's Favourite Task!
August 2012
14: Exercising Your Pets in the Summer - Heat Stroke
June 2012
28: Non-Invasive Diagnostic Imaging - Ultrasound Case Study
21: A Heartfelt "Thank You" for Attending our Pet Education Carnival!
19: Non-Invasive Diagnostic Imaging - Ultrasonography
May 2012
23: A Logical Approach to Unwanted Barking
07: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Use in Companion Animals
April 2012
21: Wellness Examinations Help to Maintain Your Pets Health
10: OVC Pet Trust Animal Cancer Centre Needs Your Help!
01: Heartworm Disease in Ontario
March 2012
19: A Dedication to a Great Man and an Dedicated Veterinarian
February 2012
06: Why Anesthesia-Free Dental Care is Wrong, Cruel, and Medically Inappropriate
January 2012
16: The Why's and What's of Dental X-ray
09: Cats Are a Unique Species, with Unique Dental Disease
05: Six Easy Steps to Brushing your Pets Teeth!
02: Dental Awareness Months!
December 2011
21: Chocolate... Good for you?
November 2011
11: Farley Month was a Huge Success!

Senior Month - It's Not Just Old Age!

Posted: 2012-12-19

Arthritis in our PetsOne of the most common ailments that affects our senior pets is osteoarthritis, a chronic degenerative disease similar to that experienced in elderly humans. One of the major differences between humans and animals in this respect is our ability to communicate when we are experiencing pain and discomfort, and therefore seek treatment. Sadly, arthritic conditions in our pets’ is often atttributed to “getting old” or simply slowing down with age. Understanding the development of arthritis and early detection are crucial to preventing advanced progression of the condition.

Simply put, arthritis occurs when cartilage in a joint is damaged, such as through traumatic events or with regular “wear and tear”. Cartilage protects bones where they would otherwise be in constant contact with eachother. It decreases joint stress by reducing impact on the ends of the bones in joints, similar to the shock absorbers in your car. In the absence of normal cartilage, bone surfaces become unprotected and damaged, causing progressive inflammation. The condition can affect any joint in the body, though is most commonly found in cats and dogs in the stifle (knee), elbow, spine, hip, carpus (wrist), hock (ankle), spine and shoulder. Some animals are predisposed to this condition, including those that are overweight, those with genetic predispositions, and animals that partake in athletics such as flyball or agility. Overweight animals have excessive stress placed on the numerous joints through the skeletal system, causing wear and damage to the cartilage. Certain individuals are more likely to develop arthritic conditions due to do congential abnormalities such as irregular bones and joints. The Bulldog is a classic example of such cases – they are very heavily bodied dogs with extremely abnormal bone structures, including bowed and proportionally small limb bones. The combination of bowed and disproportionate bone size puts a great amount of stress on the joints. Others, similar to humans, are simply born with “bad joints”. As a result of decreased movement or exercise secondary to pain, muscles begin to atrophy (shrink), and ligaments become more lax. This contributes to the furthur degradation of the joint, and becomes a vicious cycle.

As with many disease processes, early detection is crucial in the management of osteoarthritis, and to slow progression of the disease. Unfortunately, by the time clinical signs are evident, there is often relatively significant progression of the conidtion. Cartilage is absent of nerves, so discomfort is not typically noted until wear has occurred. Signs of arthritis can be subtle, so it is important to take note of small changes in your pets behaviour, such as:

  1. Difficulty getting up, or rising from the laying position.
  2. Difficulty or absence of jumping (particularly in cats).
  3. Difficulty with climbing, such as stairs, getting on the sofa, or jumping in the car.
  4. Overall stiffness that resolves with exercise.
  5. Reluctance to exercise, particularly inability to perform ‘routine’ exercise.
  6. Abnormal gait or limping.
  7. Overall decrease in activity.

In many cases, a physical examination by your veterinarian is the most important and accurate tool for the detection of arthritis. A decrease in the normal range of motion, pain or discomfort on palpation of joints, and abnormal ‘clicks’ through manipulation of the limbs can detect arthritic conditions before you may notice clinical signs. When these abnormalities are noted on exam, radiographs (x-rays) may be recommended to better characterize the arthritis, and for a more accurate assessment of the severity.

Weight management or reduction is imperative to the prevention and management of arthritis, so ask us if your pet is an an ideal body condition score. If your pet is overweight, we would be happy to help you implement a safe weight loss program specific to your pets current lifestyle and overall condition. Controlled exercise can be hugely beneficial to maintaining muscle mass and reducing stress on joints. While low impact exercise such as swimming or walking through shallow water is best, leash walks and controlled jogging are also acceptable. Certain natural supplements, prescription diets, or nutriceuticals can help with pain management and joint health, such as glucosamine and chondroitin – two products that have been scientifically proven to have beneficial effects. We have over the years had the opportunity to try many of these products, and therefore would be happy to make suitable recommendations for your pet. In advanced cases, prescription drugs such as NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) are prescribed by your veterinarian. Injectable chondroprotective agents can also be prescribed, which may help preserve cartilage in the joints. It is important to note that some medications in this family of drugs can be potentially fatal to our pets, including tylenol (acetaminophen) and advil (ibuprofen). Only use these medications under the direct guidance of your veterinarian. Long-time use requires scheduled blood testing, as these drugs can negatively affect the kidneys and liver.

December is focused on senior pets, and the particular conditions that they experience. Book your senior pet exam today to recieve 15% off important routine blood testing and to recieve a free bag of age-appropriate food!

This blog entry was written by Westbridge Veterinary Hospital, an animal clinic in Mississauga dedicated to providing high quality, modern veterinary care to our beloved pets and their families.

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