Published in the PRG fall issue 2019
By Mimi Vishoot, DVM
Sierra Oaks Vet Services
The school year is well underway and the holiday season is fast approaching. Long, warm days change over to cooler days and longer nights. Hours outdoors in the sunshine segue to the comfort and safety of the indoors.
Our pets also sense the progression of the seasons. Family time includes more indoor playtime with Fido and Fluffy, experimenting with trick training, puzzle games, hide and seek. Mental stimulation can be just as fun and satisfying as those giddy romps in the park!
For our older pets, this shift of seasons can involve progressive signs of joint pain known as osteoarthritis. Fluffy may no longer jump onto her favorite window sill. Or, she might avoid doing her business in the littler box these days. Maybe it is uncomfortable for her? Fido might be taking longer to rise up from his nap, or he may seem to be walking with a stiffer gait and slowing down on walks. Sometimes the signs are subtle, but they are worthy of our attention.
Feeding our pets to maintain optimal body weight goes a long way toward keeping them comfortable as they age. Controlled, regular exercise helps the muscles and fascia stay strong and flexible, helping to support arthritic joints. Supplements that provide antioxidant and cartilage support can help slow the progression of degenerative joint disease. Medications to decrease pain and inflammation can be quite helpful to keep your older pet comfortably agile and active.
Osteoarthritis is quite common, and the signs can be similar to those of many other diseases that affect our aging pets. Your veterinarian will want to know if there are any changes in your pet’s appetite or water consumption, and whether you have noticed variations from typical bowel and urinary habits. They may recommend basic screening tests such as complete blood count, blood chemistry, and urine analysis. Thyroid tests are often included in senior screening tests, and the results should be analyzed with care.
If it is deemed safe, a trial course of treatment as for osteoarthritis may be recommended. For dogs this is often a 1-2 week trial on non-steroid anti-inflammatory medication. It can be quite enlightening to see your old friend Fido acting much more spry! This sort of medical trial is more challenging for cats, as they metabolize medications differently than dogs. Old kitties tend to have kidney issues and we don’t want to make those worse! Certain medications are simply not safe for cats. Your vet can suggest appropriate options to try for Fluffy.
Please consult your veterinarian before trying ANY medications on your pet, and embrace this lovely time of year with the whole family.