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; Canine Sports Medicine Canine Rehabilitation Institute USA).
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.
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.
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To read more about how you and your Companion, who has been diagnosed with a Neurological condition, can benefit from consulting a Qualified Animal Physical Rehabilitation Practitioner. CLICK HERE