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Buddy is a border collie/ terrier mix. Visit www.kingcounty.gov/pets to adopt pets from the Kent shelter. The Kent shelter services SeaTac and Tukwila.

Pets feeling the cold in their aching bones, too

By Dr. Liz Conger
Des Moines Veterinary Hospital

As we say farewell to a truly beautiful summer, we greet vibrant fall colors and cooler, more humid nights. The cooler weather brings a change to joint comfort in many of our four footed friends.

Just like humans, advancing age, decreasing temperatures and previous injury can cause a flare up of stiff and aching joints. The Labrador Retriever that was excited to go to the park to chase the ball and jump in the lake may be slower to get up after sleeping, hesitant to jump in the truck and may only chase the ball a few times instead of all day.

Cats may not want to jump on the counter, may sleep more or walk stiffly.

Today there are many ways to help increase the comfort and mobility of our most loyal friends. Oral Glucosamine supplements are a good first step. They are most effective when given over the long term and when purchased as a combination product with chondroitin, MSM and other joint enhancers.

These products help joints by decreasing inflammation, helping rebuild cartilage and improving the quality of the joint fluid. They come in a variety of tasty tablets, soft chews, capsules or granules. Some are hypoallergenic.

Products are available that even picky kitties will eat. An injectable glucosamine type product is available that gives an extra boost, even to animals already on an oral product.

Anti-inflammatory medications often significantly improve the comfort and mobility of dogs. There are a number of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) for dogs that work well with the joint supplements to decrease inflammation in the joints. Decreasing inflammation slows down the degenerative changes taking place in the joints as well as decreasing pain.

With this category of medication it is important to determine which NSAID is most appropriate for an individual and how long or when they should take it. A blood test is recommended after starting the new medication to assure the dog’s liver and kidneys tolerate the medication.

Steroidal medications are powerful anti-inflammatories and can be useful initially or intermittently in the long term management of arthritis. Steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are not used at the same time. Each medication has significant benefits for alleviating stiffness and pain.

However, as with any drug, there can be side effects or a particular individual may not tolerate it. Therefore it is important to evaluate each situation with your veterinarian.

Many physical therapy options are available to our four footed friends today that can be very beneficial.

Laser therapy has produced great improvement in arthritic dogs and cats. The laser light produces increased blood flow to the affected area, accelerates tissue repair and cell growth, reduces swelling and provides significant pain relief. The laser therapy machine can also stimulate specific acupuncture points.

The laser therapy machine produces light at a specific wavelength so it is different than a laser pen light or a laser surgical machine.

Acupuncture is another modality that can be helpful for some dogs and cats. Some animals have found relief with chiropractic manipulation. Warm hydrotherapy is available now at several locations in the Puget Sound area and can sometimes produce increased mobility.

The many choices available should make the cold winter months much less of a challenge for our furry friends that give us so much joy and friendship.

(Truth about Cats & Dogs is a monthly column written by local veterinarians. Participating hospitals are Marine View Veterinary Hospital in Des Moines, Des Moines Veterinary Hospital and Burien Veterinary Hospital.)

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