Joint Disease – Osteoarthritis
Many large dogs will develop various degrees of arthritis in their joint as they age. Commonly this is seen as stiffness or pain upon first rising and then gradually working out of the stiffness with movement. Dogs will frequently have difficulty getting from a sitting to standing position with hip pain and may circle frequently very slowly go down with elbow pain. Muscle atrophy or a lack of muscles will often be noted in these pets. Large breeds and obese dogs are predisposed to developing arthritis.
If your dog seems to be getting weak or painful a complete veterinary examination should be done to rule out other causes such as cancer, Valley Fever, Tick Fever, and various other diseases. Often radiographs (x-rays) are needed for an accurate diagnosis and to assess the degree of joint disease.
Treatment of arthritis involves weight loss, continuation with normal level of activity, and medications. Many veterinarians will prescribe a nutritional supplement which contains glucosamine and condroitin sulfate. A commonly used product in dogs is Dasuquin® Soft Chews from Nutramax labs. These products are intended to provide the building blocks of cartilage and the theory is that they will help to restore the cartilage and are anti-inflammatory as well. While they are listed as dietary supplements, I’ve found them to be extremely helpful with many dogs showing great improvement when pleased on these types of supplements. So, in my experience, they do often seem to help to pets and are very safe for long term use. A drug based on a similar principle is available but is actually labeled as a drug (research supports efficacy) and is given by injection only.
Frequently non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) are needed to control the pain. Common examples are Rimadyl and Metacam. Currently we are fortunate that there are a large number of these medications available for our pets but it is important to remember that all medications should be given only under a doctors supervision. Use of NSAID’s can cause liver disease in some patients and can also cause gastrointestinal tract ulceration. Pets on these medications should have their liver enzymes monitored on a regular basis and should be monitored for vomiting, diarrhea or loss of appetite. It is important to remember that all medications can potentially cause problems in some individuals and if your pet is in constant pain the small risk is often well justified by improved quality of life.
Commonly used meds (never use together)
- * Carprofen (Rimadyl®, Novox) – chewable tablet
- * Etodolac (EtoGesic®) – chewable tablet
- * Deracoxib (Deramaxx) – chewable tablet
- * Meloxicam (Metacam®) – liquid given in food
- * Tepoxalin (Zubrin®) tablet
Dry Eye (KCS – keratoconjunctivitis sicca)
The condition keratoconjunctivitis sicca is commonly called dry eye because the disease is actually a dysfunction of the glands of the eye that produce tears, causing a dry eye. Tears are responsible for keeping the cornea healthy and without tears the cornea becomes diseased. The condition is most common in dogs with large round eyes such as Shih-Tzus but can occur in other breeds as well. Signs include very red inflamed eyes with a thick ropey type of mucus on the surface of the eye. The pets are often very uncomfortable and will frequently rub their face on the carpet. The corneas will often ulcerate and the pet will squint from the pain. A simple test called a schimer tear test can be done quickly in the office and will provide immediate diagnosis allowing for quick treatment. The test involves placing a small paper strip (that has a numbered scale on it and blue dye at the bottom) under the lower eyelids. If adequate tears are present the dye will wick up the paper and the number is recorded. If KCS is present there will not be enough tears to wick the dye up to the proper level and KCS is diagnosed. Once diagnoses pets are treated for with a medication called optimmune (various strengths) the ointment is applied into the eye daily for the life of the pet. With most pets this treatment alone is enough to control the disease as long as the owner understands that it is a lifelong treatment and continues the administration of the medication.
Anal glands are glands that are located on either side of the rectum and produce a liquid secretion used for scent marking when stool is passed. The secretions drain by a very small duct that if inflamed will easily become blocked causing the secretions to continue to build up and the glands to overfill and become uncomfortable to the pet (both dogs and cats but more common in dogs). Typical signs of blocked anal glands are frequent licking of the rectum and scooting or dragging the bottom on a rough surface. If these signs are seen the pet should be taken to a veterinarian for expression and flushing. Occasionally a gland will become overfilled and infected and will abscess or rupture through the skin. At this point the pet will have a visible wound on the rectum and they are often very painful. If presented to a veterinarian the condition is easily treated but unfortunately many pets are subject to repeated blocking of these ducts. Increasing the fiber in the diet often helps to naturally express these glands.