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Arthritis in dogs hidden by survival instinct

Media Release
For Immediate Release
October 29, 2008

Arthritic symptoms in dogs often hidden by survival instinct

Dog owners may not detect their pet is suffering from arthritis because most animals have evolved to hide symptoms of pain as it marks them out as weakened and therefore a target.

North Shore veterinarian Dr Mike Small of Forrest Hill Vet Clinic says this survival instinct makes it very difficult for dog owners to detect a problem with arthritis.

He says by the time a dog is limping it may mean it is in a lot of pain.

He advises pet owners to look for changes in their dog's behaviour - either physically or in their demeanour.

"Your pet may have trouble getting up from resting and will often start off with a limp. But, as the joints warm up and the dog gets going, the limp can sometimes disappear - so don't be fooled.

"Your dog may also lie down more often, be reluctant to walk, climb stairs, jump or play. Temperamentally they may become withdrawn, sensitive and guarded."

Arthritis is common, especially in aging and larger dogs. Overweight dogs are also prone to arthritis as joints wear out faster because of excess weight bearing down on them.

He also says it is important with the onset of warmer spring weather and pet owners themselves come out of winter hibernation they should ease their dog into an increased exercise regime. If a dog is prone to or has arthritis, symptoms may be triggered by sudden activity.

One year of human life is equivalent to six or seven years of a dog's life. Older dogs, aged six to eight years onward, commonly start showing symptoms of the disease, but dogs as young as a few months of age can start suffering symptoms due to degenerative joint disease.
Dr Small says he always looks for signs of arthritis when doing health checks.

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"Like many other vets, we recommend bi-annual health examinations for dogs. We'll examine all the joints and see if we can detect any pain or discomfort. We also gather information from the owner and talk with them about any changes they may have noticed in their dog's behaviour," says Dr Small.

Dr Karen Johnston of Hill's Pet Nutrition says following a diagnosis of arthritis by a veterinarian, small changes to the way a pet is treated can make a huge difference in alleviating the painful symptoms of the condition.

"Even though arthritis is degenerative, progression can be slowed with proper care, including adequate nutrition. Symptoms can be eased with the help of observant and caring owners. By talking to a vet, you can determine how to best help the dog stay active for as long as possible.

"A soft, comfortable sleeping place is important for all dogs, but especially an arthritic dog. An old mattress or soft couch is ideal because it'll prevent your dog's limbs from coming into contact with the cold, hard ground," says Dr Johnston.

She also advises pet owners to take their dogs on limited, gentle exercise like regular walks around the block, while physical therapy such as swimming can also be very beneficial.

"Not only does exercise keep your dog's joints active, but it assists in weight control, which means fewer kilos for your pet to lug around on sore limbs," says Dr Johnston.

As well as exercising a dog, proper nutrition is an essential component for their health. Medications, including anti-inflammatories used in conjunction with animal physiotherapy can also aid in treatment.

Hill's offers therapeutic food which is available through veterinarians and helps maintain healthy joints and mobility in dogs. For example, a typical diet recommended by vets to dog owners is Hill's Prescription Diet Canine j/d, which includes Omega-3 fatty acids to help promote healthy joints and improved quality of life.


About Arthritis in Pets
In medical terms arthritis means "inflammation of the joint" and osteoarthritis is the most common. This progressive condition causes cartilage covering the ends of bones in the pet's joints to deteriorate and the resulting pain and loss of movement arise as bones begin to rub together

About Hill's Pet Nutrition
Hill's Pet Nutrition manufactures Science DietTM brand pet foods, sold through veterinarians, RSPCA and pet specialty food stores, and Prescription DietTM therapeutic brand pet foods available only through veterinarians. Founded more than 60 years ago by one veterinarian's unique commitment to pet nutrition and wellbeing, Hill's follows its mission to help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets by producing high quality, great tasting pet food. Explore www.hillspet.co.nz for more information.


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