Established in 2009 Animal Health Solutions is registered with the South African Veterinary Council and is owned and managed by Veterinarian Dr Tanya Grantham (BSc(Hons); BVSc; Certificate of Safety and Competence in Veterinary Acupuncture CertSCVA UK; Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner CCRP Univ.of Tennessee).
There are a number of types of arthritis but the most common in dogs and cats is osteoarthritis (OA). This implies involvement of the bones as well as the joints. OA is also referred to as degenerative joint disease (DJD) which is characterised by a loss of joint cartilage and subsequent exposure of the underlying bone. In a normal joint, there is balance between the continuous process of cartilage matrix degeneration and repair. In OA degeneration is winning!
OA Patients usually display:
Limited activity levels
- Reduced performance
- Muscle wastage/atrophy
- Pain (varying degrees)
- Joint stiffness and a decrease in range of motion (ROM)
These symptoms result in a vicious cycle of pain, reduced activity, stiffness and loss of strength.
Signs of pain in cats and dogs:
- Increase in anxiety, sometimes showing agitation or rapid breathing
- Decrease in social interaction
- Increase in aggressiveness
- Diminished performance, they won’t want to go as far or as fast
- Changes in temperament
- Abnormal gait and body position
- Eating less, with a resulting loss of weight
- Decreased activity with weight gain
- Inappropriate elimination in the house
- Excessive chewing, biting or licking of an area or limb
- Difficulty in walking, climbing stairs, getting in and out of the litter box or car
- Resting more than usual
- Difficulty getting up from a lying position
- Failure to self groom
- Slow or stiff movements upon waking, or after rest or in cold weather
- Swollen joint(s) warm to the touch
- Personality changes such as your companion no longer likes to be touched
- Reluctance to walk, run, climb/descend stairs, jump or play
- Lagging behind on walks
- Reluctance to extend rear legs
- Inability to stretch
- Vocalisation on handling
- Unwillingness to play with other animal companions
Your companion may show one or more of these signs. Winter is approaching and signs can often become evident as the weather changes. Being aware can aid in an early diagnosis and intervention.
The mainstay of treatment is anti-inflammatory medicine however, a more holistic approach can reduce the need for these drugs and manage the pain associated with OA, as well as enhancing your companion’s quality of life.
Joints were made to move so the more mobile a joint, the healthier it is. Low impact exercise is advised in dogs diagnosed with OA. Hydrotherapy is the ideal exercise. Hydrotherapy will help to maintain muscle mass (which in turn support the joints), keep joints moving and aid with weight management. Affected companions which have an aversion for water need not be excluded from exercise. A gentle land-based program can be devised to aid movement. Massage and application of hot and cold packs have a role to play in the management of this condition.
Other options to investigate include joint supplements, specific diets, homeopathy, stem cell therapy, acupuncture and gold bead implants, magnetic therapy and Laser treatments.
A diagnosis of Hip Dysplasia (HD) in your animal companion does
not need to become a life sentence.
Contrary to popular belief, the condition is not limited to large breed dogs, and has been
diagnosed in English Cocker Spaniels, Bull Dogs, Standard Poodles and even Cats, from as
early as 12 weeks of age.
Do you know the signs and symptoms of this condition?
Did you know that the progress of the disease can be significantly affected by diet
and exercise? A simple change from slippery to non-slip floors can make a huge
difference to the further development of this disease. Managing diet and environment
within the first few weeks of a puppy’s life can affect the outcome of the disease
positively or negatively, a responsible educated breeder can make a big difference.
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP and receive our FREE PDF which includes information about
Hip Dysplasia as well as tips and practical advice on how to manage the HD animal
IVDD in its most serious form presents as sudden onset paralysis of the hind legs with or without urinary incontinence. In other individuals there may only be changes to the dog’s behavior such as a reluctance to jump on the bed or to climb stairs. Often there is a hunched pose and IVDD can be misinterpreted as a gastrointestinal upset.
The disease develops when the cushion (or disc) between the vertebrae degenerates. The function of the disc is primarily shock absorption but it also allows for movement of the spine in all directions without impingement on the spinal cord. In breeds predisposed to this condition, degeneration of the discs begins as early as 6 months of age and symptoms can manifest as young as 2 years. Because of the degeneration, the disc is incapable of cushioning the shock and it then herniates and puts pressure on the spinal cord. The result is pain as well as the other signs described earlier. The discs most often affected lie in the middle of the back (just behind the ribs) as this is the most mobile portion of the spine. IVDD can also occur in the neck and the symptoms may then include the front legs and obvious neck pain.
Early treatment of this condition will yield the best outcome. Veterinarians are trained to assess the extent of the pressure placed on the spinal cord and depending on this will advise a course of treatment. IVDD is most commonly treated with surgery. This is an expensive procedure but the success rate has increased in recent years as technique improves. In patients where surgery is not an option, conservative management in the form of pain medicine and cage rest is advised. In other instances the veterinarian may recommend euthanasia.
Animal Health and Hydro (AHAH) treats all aspects of this debilitating and heart breaking disease. We manage dogs that are still mobile but very sore using acupuncture, heat, massage and Laser therapy. Once the pain is under control an exercise program is devised which focuses on maintaining core strength and hopefully reducing the risk of recurrence. There is no research available at the moment which supports this assumption but in human medicine, people with low back pain (usually caused by a herniated disc) respond well to exercise aimed at maintaining core strength.
AHAH also plays a very large role in post-surgical patients. Many of these dogs are unable to walk properly following the injury to the spine. We are proficient in neurological rehabilitation which teaches the dogs to walk again. We use Pilates balls, the underwater treadmill and other therapeutic equipment.
In all manifestations of IVDD the single most important factor contributing to a successful outcome is cage rest! This needs to be applied for at least 6 weeks following injury or surgery. Our vets and therapists will offer emotional support and practical guidance through this phase of your companion’s recovery. Should you be faced with a difficult decision, please contact AHAH to discuss all options for your companion. This may even include a mobility cart.
Working dogs are also athletes. Guide dogs for the blind and other service dogs must be able to perform when called upon. Their charges are dependent on them. Security dogs, police dogs and detection dogs are important for the safety of the law-abiding public. These dogs often spend most of their day still and confined but must be ready (and fit) to spring into action in a heartbeat. Airport dogs keep the runways clear of birds and therapy dogs visit schools, hospitals and homes for the aged bringing joy and peace.
Moving away from formalised sports and ‘jobs’ have you ever considered the dog that runs a number of times a week with their guardian at the local running club as an athlete? What about the Golden that plays fetch every day with the children? The weekend warriors that participate in charity walks or are taken to the park for a run on Sunday are all athletic.
Canine sports medicine is an emerging branch of veterinary medicine and integrates orthopaedics (the skeleton), exercise physiology (looking after the heart and lungs), conditioning and fitness (muscles and ligaments), nutrition and biomechanics (movement). Rehabilitation practitioners are trained to rebuild your injured dog but also to help in the prevention of injury. Programs are designed which include exercises that target increased strength, enhance endurance, create body awareness and train specific skills. If this sounds like ‘doggy gym’ that’s because it is. Programs can be devised specifically for you and your dog that you can enjoy at home.
At Animal Health and Hydro, we have the privilege of working with the Guardians of Canine Athletes. Preventing unnecessary injury and facilitating full recovery are just two of the aspects of our role. Helping our Patients achieve show readiness and world class fitness are other aspects.
So, If your companions are service canines, sport professionals or even weekend warriors, you have the opportunity to make sure that they perform, safely, at their peak.