Arthritis only happens in old pets… right? Not all the time, it can happen in the young too. If your pet is diagnosed with it, what are your options?
Firstly, let me give you a brief history of my boy, Reggie. I was working as veterinary nurse and rescued him at 4 weeks of age as he was ‘unsaleable’. He had a badly damaged rear leg, and I mean badly damaged, no toes, bad. One look at him and I stupidly fell in love, against all sensible thoughts about cost and time. Because that’s what animal lovers do isn’t it? We took x-rays of his hips and discovered he had hip dysplasia with the onset of arthritis. So we decided to try and save his damaged leg, to keep the weight balanced on his hips. After months and months of daily bandages the vet and I decided it just wasn’t possible, so at the tender age of 8 months, his hind leg was amputated.
The day after the operation he was up and walking, bright and free from the constant pain that hind leg had been causing. My vet, Caroline, advised a specialist food and good pain relief. Hills J/d was a great option for him helping to preserve the healthy cartilage he had in his remaining legs and it contained fatty acids to help ease his aching joints.
So we carried on with life as normal, enjoying our regular walks, he went everywhere by my side. Then he started to limp, badly. My big mistake, carrying on with life as normal. His life wasn’t going to be normal. It can’t be with arthritis, precautions have to be taken. Here I was, not only walking my dog too far, but not thinking of the added time he was spending in the garden playing football with the boys, or running around the house, particularly up the stairs. I felt really guilty, here I am a qualified veterinary nurse who really should have known better. So I took him once again, rather embarrassed, to Caroline, who once more kindly went through all of the options.
My first, was physiotherapy. To be honest this scared me, a lot, I was told he was not to run up and down the stairs, not to be off the lead at all – especially in mud, not to be allowed to play football with the boys. I followed her advice, to the letter. But, sadly what I ended up with was a miserable dog. He was bored, and quite frankly, naughty. So off I went for another discussion with Caroline, ‘moderation’ she wisely advised. You have to sensibly think of what you can realistically provide for him, balancing the good and bad to provide him with a good quality of life. So here’s me being honest;
The things I’m good with;
Weight – if I feel he’s pilling on a few pounds, I lower the amount of J/d he’s fed, because at the end of the day weight gain is going put more stress on his joints and lead to further problems.
Restriction – although I don’t completely stop him from going upstairs (he likes to sleep at the top on a night), I restrict when he goes up and down. Football, he’s not allowed to play very often and when he’s allowed as a treat, its limited to ten minutes. Walks are now restricted, particularly off the lead, but I do let him have a little mud now and again as he seriously loves it!
Medication – he gets his medication regularly, on time and I’m always watching him for any signs of pain in case he needs a little extra for a few days. Simple things like weather can make him ache more.
Acupuncture – he’s had it several times and is always much brighter after, it seems to work a treat for him!
The things I’m not so good with;
Physiotherapy – sometimes life just gets in the way, and although I try regularly to provide physiotherapy I find life is just a little too chaotic to factor it in every day.
Hydrotherapy – he was recommended this and yes it would be ideal. But, he needs a swimming pool, he needs to actually swim. Time and financial constraints don’t allow me to do this with him at the moment, but I do make sure when the weather is warm he gets as much swimming in as he can, whether it be at the beach or local reservoir.
Laser Treatment – another option which is just not feasible for me personally at the moment.
The main reason I’m writing this? Well, to let you as an owner know it’s all about balance and making those changes when you can. There’s plenty of options available to help arthritic pets, and it’s about choosing the options that suit not only your beloved pet but also your life too. I know that further down the line when Reggie gets a little worse then I’ll have another discussion with Caroline and we will change our treatment, he will go onto hydrotherapy and laser treatment. And when his legs give up on him completely? Hopefully knowing that I have given him the best life I could, will play a little part in easing my grief