By VNS Natasha
This is Ruby, a 10-year-old English Cocker Spaniel. Her family needed a holiday and I was lucky enough to look after Ruby while they were away! Ruby loves a good nap and a cuddle, (good thing I do too!). We spent much of my time there curled up on the couch watching Netflix together. Although she may be growing older, Ruby still goes crazy for a game of fetch! This girl was lucky enough to be situated right next to an off-lead park and knew where we were going as soon as I opened the draw with her tennis balls inside and would start spinning in circles with excitement. Ruby's excitement was absolutely infectious! I just had to laugh as she ran off, still spinning, towards the park.
Ruby gets quite anxious when new people come into her life. Our vet nurses will usually have a meet-and-greet with pups and their families, but Ruby benefited from a couple. This allowed Ruby to get used me before Mum and Dad went away. On the first day of our sleepover, Ruby was still quite anxious without Mum and Dad there to support her. I slowly won her over by sitting near her, (but not too close!), and letting her slowly realise I wasn’t a threat. I think what finally won her over was breaking out the food – of course. After dinner, she came over for a tentative cuddle, but was soon lapping up the attention. I soon found out she loved a good chin scratch and a belly rub – we have a natural talent in finding their weaknesses.
Another advantage of having a vet nurse visit, is that we are often able to provide some advice outside of a vet clinic environment. Her family have noticed that Ruby sometimes seems a bit sore after getting up from a nap or after a long walk, especially in the cold weather. It wears off quickly and Ruby is soon back to her usual self. We often see this in older dogs as some early signs of arthritis.
Some common signs and symptoms of arthritis is dogs include:
· Limping or stiffness after activity
· Difficulty rising from a resting position
· Reluctance to go upstairs or to jump onto couches/into the car like they used to
· Yelping when touched/picked up
· A change in behaviour, eg. Not as affectionate or snapping when touched
I was able to advise Ruby's parents on some management options which may give her some relief and slow the progression of her arthritis. Like in people, there is no cure for arthritis, but there is plenty we can do to help! Arthritis can be managed environmentally, through diet and supplements or through medical treatment. Considering a multi-modal management program always works best.
Arthritis can often be more severe in the colder months. You can help your pet by using warm, thick bedding to keep them warm at night and help prevent stiffness and pain in the mornings. Managing your pet’s exercise is also important. Gentle walking and other low impact exercises such as swimming can be beneficial for arthritic pets, to help preserve the cartilage that’s left and offer a gentle exercise solution.
There are lots of diets and supplements available which contain the building blocks to support joint health but they are not all built the same. Hill’s Prescription diet Mobility (formerly j/d) is a clinically proven therapeutic diet for dogs which contains omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate which helps to preserve cartilage in your pet’s joints and maintain a healthy weight. Maintenance of a healthy weight is crucial to managing arthritis. If your pet is carrying excess weight this can exert excess pressure on their joints, speeding up the degeneration process and adding to their pain.
Pentosan Polysulphate’s are a class of drug derived from natural ingredients. This course of injections improves joint health by stopping the enzymatic destruction of cartilage and stimulating production of new cartilage and lubrication in the joints. It can also help clear blood vessels and promotes production of antioxidants.
The initial course is given via weekly injections administered by your veterinarian. After a month, frequency of injections can usually be reduced to suit your pet’s needs. 80% of animals respond quickly to the initial course and many pet parents observe increased activity and a reduction in pain levels and lameness!
Your vet may also incorporate a course of pain releif upon examination whilst the above methods have a chance to work their magic.
Book a consultation with your veterinarian to learn if there is anything else you could be doing to help your pet live their best life.
It has been an absolute joy caring for Ruby. She has been lovely, and I hope I can see her again soon!