Veterinary Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation Can Offer Hope for Pets With Chronic Arthritis

Jul 28, 2020

Veterinary Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation Can Offer Hope for Pets With Chronic Arthritis

Arthritis is one of the most common ailments to affect aging pets, and watching the companion who ran alongside you for many years slow down and become painful is difficult. Your pet has given you their best, and as they age, you want to do everything you can to keep them comfortable, and make their golden years enjoyable. Fortunately, Animal Emergency Specialty Center’s Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Service can help you do exactly that. If your pet is slowing down, and your family veterinarian has diagnosed arthritis, many treatment options are available to keep them on their feet, so they can continue enjoying life beside you.

What is arthritis in pets?

Arthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is joint inflammation that typically damages the articular cartilage lining your pet’s joints. Arthritis can develop from years of repeated wear and tear to joints; however, it commonly develops secondary to joint problems, such as canine hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia,  or stifle (knee) problems. Although aging pets normally slow down a bit, significant decrease in activity and involvement, which can indicate the pet is painful, is not normal. Many pet owners do not realize this, and they may not know they can take advantage of treatments that can keep their pets mobile and active during their senior years. If your primary veterinarian has diagnosed arthritis in your pet, we can partner with them to design a multi-modal treatment plan that will provide cumulative benefits from multiple therapy types. 

What is veterinary rehabilitation?

Veterinary rehabilitation therapy uses a variety of treatments to increase mobility, and decrease pain and inflammation, in pets with many musculoskeletal disorders. Although arthritis is a general process, no two pets with arthritis are the same. After assessing your pet, our board-certified Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation specialist, Juliette Hart, MS, DVM, CCRT, CVA, DACVSMR, will formulate an individualized plan using therapies that will best address your pet’s specific situation. Treatments used may include:

Treating Arthritis in Pets

  • Therapeutic exercises — Almost every rehabilitation plan involves therapeutic exercises that are designed to help your pet gain strength, improve balance, and increase mobility.
  • Laser therapy — Laser therapy uses light energy to stimulate positive effects in body tissue, such as reduced inflammation, swelling, and pain; faster tissue growth and repair; and reduced scar tissue formation. 
  • Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES)NMES uses low-level electrical currents, delivered via electrodes, to stimulate muscle contraction in pets with limited mobility. NMES helps prevent muscle atrophy, increase strength, improve joint mobility and range of motion, and reduce inflammation and pain. 
  • Veterinary massage — During veterinary massage, a rehabilitation specialist uses their fingers and hands to manipulate soft tissues, to stimulate healing and recovery at the cellular level. 
  • Acupuncture — Veterinary acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of inserting needles into specific body points to produce healing responses, such as increased circulation, muscle tension relief, and endorphin release. 

How can veterinary rehabilitation help pets with chronic arthritis?

Veterinary rehabilitation can offer a number of benefits to pets with chronic arthritis, including:

  • Decreased inflammation and pain
  • Increased mobility and joint range of motion 
  • Improved balance and stability
  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved muscle strength
  • Prevention of muscle atrophy

Although your pet may not experience all these benefits, almost every pet who undergoes rehabilitation treatments experiences multiple improvements, and enjoys an improved quality of life. Instead of passively watching from the sidelines, wishing they could be involved, pets who are comfortable and mobile are able to join family activities, and enjoy a more fulfilling life.

Can other therapies help pets with arthritis?

Our Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist will assess your pet’s condition, and prescribe the therapy combination to provide the best benefit. In addition to rehabilitation, Dr. Hart may prescribe additional pain medications to help alleviate your pet’s discomfort, or joint supplements to help replenish your pet’s natural supply of cartilage-healing substances. Some pets benefit from intra-arterial injections of medications that further support joint health and joint fluid production. At home, you can help your pet by providing supportive bedding, placing ramps and steps before elevated surfaces, and using rugs to help your pet gain traction on hard floors. 

If you notice your pet slowing down, or if your primary veterinarian has diagnosed arthritis, contact us to see how our veterinary sports medicine & rehabilitation specialist, Dr. Hart, can help them regain function, and enjoy a better quality of life.