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ARTHRITIS TREATMENT OPTIONS
At Yarmouth Veterinary Center we offer a wide range of treatment options for arthritic pets. We list them here, along with brief descriptions of what we generally consider to be the best version of each treatment option. In most cases there are several other versions of each option. Every arthritic patient has their own specific needs, and our goal is to find the best option(s) for each individual pet.
NUTRITION / WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
A very valuable treatment option for overweight pets with arthritis is to diet them down to their normal weight range; a very valuable option for normal weight pets with arthritis is to maintain them at their normal weight.
Getting an overweight pet to lose weight is always a long-term project, and for some pets and their owners it seems to be an impossible project. These owners should take heart, however: in our experience, even the most overweight pets experience great benefits from just a little weight loss.
For dogs that need to lose weight we recommend Prescription Diet Metabolic+Mobility, and for cats that need to lose weight we recommend Prescription Diet Metabolic. (If you are very happy with the food you are currently feeding your pet, another option is to continue feeding that food, but to decrease the daily amount by 25%.)
For dogs that are at a normal weight we recommend either Prescription Diet Metabolic+Mobility or Prescription Diet J/D, and for cats at a normal weight we recommend Prescription Diet J/D.
EXERCISE / PHYSICAL THERAPY
Exercise is the best way to combat the stiffness and loss of strength that are the common complications of arthritis. We believe the best form of exercise is whatever can easily be provided on a daily basis; walking is great. The level of exercise is what the pet can accomplish without being exceptionally sore afterward.
We try to extend the limits of your pet’s ability to exercise using some of the other arthritis treatment options described here.
Physical therapy using passive range of motion exercise and massage are easy to accomplish at home and require only a small time commitment. We can provide a detailed PT treatment plan when owners are interested in having one.
Some amount of rest is necessary, but “strict rest” is not usually needed, and extreme inactivity is counter-productive. Limiting the pet to controlled leash walks and avoiding extremes of activity, such as chasing a ball or running through the woods, is usually sufficient when a period of rest is needed.
We have a variety of medications to choose from and a variety of ways to use them. When we are starting or re-starting an arthritic patient on medication we often begin with a trial period of two to four weeks.
One approach we commonly use is to begin a medication at the time of diagnosis, along with one or more non-medication options, and eventually try to taper the pet off of the medication to determine if the non-medication options are sufficient for maintenance. Many arthritic pets cannot be comfortable without medication and, fortunately, we have medications that can be given chronically with very minimal risk of side effects. Some of our more severely affected patients require a combination of two or more medications for significant relief.
There are two supplements worth considering, joint protective agents and fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids).
JOINT PROTECTIVE AGENTS maintain or enhance the quality of joint fluid, cartilage, and other joint tissues. The best-known joint protective agents are the glucosamine/chondroitin supplements. The best glucosamine/chondroitin supplements for pets are the veterinary products Dasuquin and Dasuquin Advanced.
FISH OIL has anti-inflammatory effects. When used at a high dose, two to three times the doses usually used for other problems, fish oils have significant anti-arthritis effects. We believe the best way to provide high-dose fish oil is to feed either Prescription Diet J/D or Prescription Diet Metabolic+Mobility; many pet foods have some fish oil, but these Prescription Diets uniquely provide enough to qualify as high-dose therapy.
When owners would rather use a fish oil supplement instead of feeding one of these diets, we recommend using one that is more concentrated than most others, so that a smaller amount can be given to achieve high-dose therapy. Derma-3 Twist Caps is the veterinary product that is the most concentrated fish oil supplement.
For some forms of arthritis, surgery is a worthwhile treatment option. Cruciate ligament tears is the best example of an arthritic problem that can be at least partially managed with surgery.
Laser therapy is the use of laser light for anti-inflammatory effect. About 25% of veterinary hospitals now have a therapy laser. At YVC we have taken laser therapy to a uniquely advanced level: we have three therapy lasers, each of which produces therapeutic effects in a different way.
A laser therapy treatment is no-invasive and non-painful. Each session requires about five to ten minutes per body region treated. On average, six to twelve sessions are administered at a frequency of three per week to initiate arthritis treatment. The frequency of sessions is then tapered to the lowest needed for patient comfort.
Many pet owners are familiar with joint injections for arthritis treatment because they, or someone they know, have received them. We can provide the same joint injections for arthritic pets. The medicines we inject most often are hyaluronic acid (synthetic joint fluid), cortisone, and/or platelet rich plasma (PRP). (Over the last few years, PRP injections have become somewhat commonplace for human athletes who are trying to recover quickly and effectively from joint problems.) One appealing feature of joint injections is that the medicine that is injected into the joint is absorbed only very minimally into the rest of the body, so there is little to no risk of general body system side effects.
Regenerative medicine is the restoration of normal structure and function to diseased, degenerating body tissues by stimulating the growth of new, healthy tissues. At YVC we have two options for pursuing this goal.
STEM CELL THERAPY By a simple surgical procedure we remove some fat from a patient; we process this tissue to remove, concentrate, and activate the stem cells present in it; then we return these stem cells to the pet by injecting them into the affected joints.
REGENERATIVE LASER THERAPY We can use the unique wavelength produced by one of our therapy lasers to stimulate the stem cells that are naturally present in joints.
While it is not practically possible to restore completely normal health, it is currently possible to stimulate the growth of some healthy tissue in arthritic joints using one of these relatively simple procedures.
We can perform acupuncture with one of our therapy lasers instead of needles. The acupuncture points used and the potential benefits are the same as those for traditional acupuncture, but there is no pain associated with the laser “needling”.
Yarmouth Veterinary Center
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