Raising awareness of this debilitating disease
For agility dogs, arthritis can be a real problem. The stresses and strains placed on the joints by dogs hurtling at speed, twisting or turning, can lead to wear and tear on the joint cartilage. Psychological make up can have an influence, too. Their very nature means that Spaniels and Border Collies, for instance, have only two speeds: very fast and stop – Prevention and early detection with treatment are key if you want to keep your dogs flexible and active for an extended period of time.
Nearly 1 in 5 dogs suffer from arthritis in this country, but it is a condition that still goes unrecognised. Most dogs suffer from ‘osteoarthritis'. This is a condition that mainly affects dogs secondary to some sort of traumatic injury, or wear and tear, particularly around a badly formed or unstable joint. The condition is seen more in old dogs but some dogs have badly formed hips or elbows, and this can cause them to develop arthritis relatively early on in their lives.
Many owners expect their dog to ‘slow down' as he gets older. One of the signs that dogs have arthritis is that they seem slower and less mobile. In particular, dogs may have difficulty getting up after lying down for a period of time. Once they are up on their feet though, the joints may seem to ease and the pet will gradually become more mobile. Old dogs that spend longer in bed are often assumed to be lazy, or enjoying a bit of relaxation in their golden years. Yet all too often the lack of movement is due to pain.
It's certainly true that arthritis is a life-long condition once it is present. When damage to the cartilage is triggered, it is essentially an ongoing process, governed by enzymes. The cartilage continues to degrade, an inflammatory reaction is set up and even the bone itself can get worn in some areas, and accumulate in other sites, until the joint starts to look deformed.
One very interesting recent development is the finding that a palatable tablet treatment could slow the rate of deterioration in the damaged cartilage. That suggests that for the first time, treatment is not just having a palliative effect, but is actually treating the disease itself. So, getting the right treatment for your dog, could well extend the number of ‘working years' they could enjoy. The earlier treatment starts, the earlier it can start to slow cartilage deterioration.
There are more ways to help dogs with arthritis. Nutritional supplements, such as Nutradyl®, can promote joint health. These tablets contain extracts of Green Lipped Mussel, a shellfish that contains the building blocks for joint cartilage, which can be given alongside arthritis treatments, or even alone.
So whether your dog is just slowing up, becoming more of a couch potato or just seems to be a lazybones, have him checked out. Arthritis is painful and progressive. Loss of mobility will surely follow without treatment. For those dogs who receive treatment, the outlook is rosy. Palatable tablets are easy to give, day after day and dogs that get treatment early will do best in the long term. So it really is worth having your dogs checked out.
For two years she ran a pet care line, handling 75,000 pet owner queries a year, eventually winning the Daily Telegraph Award for Customer Service. In 2002 she set up her own consultancy, working with many pet based companies and writing for vets, breeders and pet owners.
Susan is about to launch a little website called Wild About Pets which will stock a small range of good products for pets and have lots of information on it.
First publisher 19/04/07