The good news is that our pets do not have to suffer from arthritis pain. We are fortunate to now have a number of different pain relief options available. In addition, the options for pain control are often safer than previous alternatives. The first step is diagnosing the source of the pain. While it may be easy to assume that painful limbs in older patients are likely arthritic, there are actually a number of different causes for limping or pain that need to be ruled out. Causes such as soft tissue (muscle/tendon/ligament) injuries/tears or even bone tumors can mimic arthritis in older pets. A good physical exam and possible x-rays by your veterinarian is important to determine whether the appropriate treatment plan is implemented.
Once arthritis is confirmed, a treatment regimen can be tailored to fit the particular patient, family, and lifestyle. Anti-inflammatory and pain medication comes in a variety of different options including chewable tablets and flavored liquids that may be easier to administer. There are even newer options that are targeted more specifically to the joints and designed to be less likely to cause unwanted side effects in other body systems.
In addition to medication, therapy laser might be discussed. This is a low intensity laser that provides a healing and anti-inflammatory effect to arthritic joints.
Finally, physical therapy is very helpful. Simply providing passive range of motion exercises (manipulating the limbs in their normal range of motion while your pet is at rest) along with warm compresses to the affected joints can be quite soothing. More regimented protocols can be designed, including underwater treadmill therapy and other techniques, by a physical rehabilitation veterinarian.
If you suspect that your pet is struggling with painful joints, call us to set up an appointment. We would be happy to help you identify the cause and provide a plan for relief.