Do our pets have sore joints?
We live in a beautiful place, the Vail Valley, where many of our pets, especially dogs, are lucky enough to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle. Many of us take our dogs everywhere with us: hiking, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, etc. Dogs even take their own initiative and chase little creatures into holes and up trees. And these pets will usually do these activities even if they feel sore, stiff or even if they know that they will be sore the next morning. Actually, dogs do not have the reasoning ability possessed by their owners. Therefore, our athletic pets may develop degenerative joint disease, also known as arthritis, from all this activity at an earlier age than a city dog. Of course, genetic predisposition to weak cartilage and previous injuries can also contribute to early onset of arthritis. We don’t want our dogs to age but they do, and as they get older their activity level has to be adjusted accordingly depending on the amount of pain exhibited.Signs of painDegenerative joint disease is a progressive degenerative condition that affects the joints. Synovial fluid is the liquid in the joints that lubricates and cushions. As this fluid lessens the articular cartilage lining the joints starts degenerating. These changes can eventually be seen radiographically as narrowing of the joint space, bony remodeling and uneven joint surface. Many different joints in the body can be affected, but the hips and knees are the most common.The most common symptoms are stiffness, difficulty rising, inability to jump into the car or go up stairs. Sometimes you may notice your pet breathing hard or moaning, and these can be signs of pain. Don’t we wish that our pets could talk to us, but since they can’t, we have to figure out where the pain is coming from and how we can help them be more comfortable.The good news is that there has been much research on joint disease because it has become a common problem among animals and humans. Treatment is multi-faceted and includes weight reduction, controlled exercise, a change of environment, anti-inflammatory drugs, nutritional supplements and acupuncture.Feeling betterAn important component in the successful of treatment of joint disease is glucosamine, a nutritional supplement that can alter the course of arthritis by improving the health of the articular cartilage or synovial fluid. Glucosamine has been researched in humans and is now given to most patients undergoing any kind of surgery involving joints, such as anterior cruciate repairs. I know that in this ski valley, more than 50 percent of you have had or know someone who has had this surgery. I take glucosamine daily for knee arthritis and degenerative discs. Glucosamine is now combined with MSM, a sulfur component that diminishes in our bodies as we age. Sulfur is known to be required for bonding of cells in the cartilage lining the joints. Glucosamine helps normalize cartilage and stimulates the production of the components of cartilage. The lining of the joints is also stimulated to secrete more fluid into the joint, adding more lubrication.The results have been very successful and allow our pets to have better range of motion, less pain and be happier.Glucosamine comes in various forms. The reliability of the distributing company is very important because the efficiency of the product can be altered in the production. I recommend some chewable tablets for dogs and cats (glycoflex) that have been so successful among veterinary patients that veterinarians have tried to take them too. This particular company has finally developed tablets for humans that have the same great benefits. Vail, Colorado