As with most diseases, early treatment will provide the best results as well as reduce an individual’s suffering. The dog’s early symptoms are often ignored by their caretakers. The first sign these dogs demonstrate at home is being slow to rise or having difficulty rising after lying down, especially if they have lain for a while. Once they get up and move around they may appear normal, and run or play. Since they appear active after rising, caretakers often ignore this silent cry for help, believing the dog could not be in pain or that “it is just a little arthritis”.
The first observed sign is difficulty rising from floor because this action requires a full range of ball and socket joint motion. Once on their feet these dogs may run and play with an unnoticeable reduced range of motion of the joint in an effort to avoid pain. This adjustment is so minor that the observer does not realize these animals are not normal. To the untrained eye, they appear normal but they are simply masking their pain by shortening the arc of articulation. Often these “normal ” animals during a veterinary examination will exhibit a gait with shortened strides to protect the joints. Examination of the hip joint will show normal hip flexion but significant resistance to hip extension due to pain. For example, some friendly dogs that appear normal, and as a veterinarian at Cornerstone Animal Hospital observing, will actually hurt intensely with hip extension that they will cry out or try to bite. These same dogs will run and play at home.
At Cornerstone Animal Hospital we offer multiple treatment options, customized to individual needs. There are three ways pain is routinely managed.
- The conventional method uses prescription medication to alleviate pain. There are a variety of medications available to veterinarians, but human pain medications are not advised. The best results are seen from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. While all medications have the potential to damage the liver and kidney, regular and on-going use of these drugs must be monitored initially and on six month intervals.Advantage: Ease of administration
Disadvantage: Routine laboratory evaluation required Caution: Glucosamine does not relieve pain. Glucosamine is thought to help promote healthy cartilage growth, and while it does not cause harm, it will not solve the problem once cartilage is damaged and the pain is present. Glucosamine should be started on any dog with the potential to develop hip pain before the problem occurs. Once damage is present there is great debate as to whether or not to continue and receive benefit. It will not grow new cartilage to replace the damaged cartilage from joint deterioration.
- Laser therapy is the use of laser waves on the affected joints and surrounding tissues. Many people think of high intensity laser waves which are used in surgery. This isn’t the wave used for treatment. Lower intensity waves have healing benefits. These waves, used at the proper intensity and time for the condition, can provide healing and pain relief. Generally, several treatments are required over a time period of two to three weeks. This brings the pain under control, and is followed by a maintenance schedule of every two, four, six, or eight weeks depending on the owner’s observation of the severity of joint pain. Advantage: Non -drug option which leaves the kidneys or liver unaffected, safe in older patients, and no laboratory monitoring required.
Disadvantage: Regular trips to veterinarian’s office.
Caution: Home laser therapy units are expensive units that provide little to no relief because the wave lengths are inadequate to penetrate into joints and provide pain relief and healing.
- Electro-acupuncture is using a acupuncture needles attached to a special unit that sends a very low level of electricity into the tissue to stimulate healing. This is not a painful process. Most patients actually relax and sleep during the treatment, as they are caressed and talked to by the assistant. Electro-acupuncture may be used to treat multiple joints in a single treatment as well as help restore muscle mass.Advantage: Non drug option, similar to laser in safety, but with the additional benefit of increasing muscle mass and allowing treatment of similar joints simultaneously. Disadvantage: Regular trips to veterinarian’s office.