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ARTHRITIS AND YOUR PETS

Posted Aug 07 2009 12:12pm

Helpful Buckeye and Desperado are really glad to be back home after our recently completed 6000 mile driving trip. We enjoyed a lot of good times on the trip, some hectic moments, some reflective periods, and some outright laughable situations. For the driving portions of the trip, our mantra seemed to derive its impetus from the classic song by The Doobie Brothers, Rockin' Down The Highway. Not that we weren't taking the opportunity to smell the roses along the way, it was just that we were destination oriented on this particular trip. We played a lot of music and sang along with most of the songs. Come along and join the Doobie Brothers on their big hit, Rockin' Down The Highway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHJaqe12BIc
That should help carry you on any road trip you have planned for the summer!

Helpful Buckeye and Desperado would like to share a few photos with you from our trip that illustrate scenes of interest related to Questions On Dogs and Cats:

  • Thinking of our previous columns on obesity and pets, this "restaurant" in Springfield, MO, exemplifies the over-eating indulgence shown by a lot of pet owners.



  • This facility in Terre Haute, IN, offers so many options, you'd think it was everything a dog or cat needs in life.


  • The Nemacolin Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania had some nice sculptures spread around the grounds, including this depiction of an attentive dog.

  • A different way of taking the dogs for a walk was seen at The Villages, Florida.

  • Finally, Helpful Buckeye had to be alert when riding his bicycle on Sanibel Island, Florida.


Hopefully, all of our readers enjoyed the last 3 issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats, which were written ahead of time and did not cover any items of current interest. Many of you sent e-mails saying that the 3 separate topics were very educational and several of you said that you had printed an entire issue for future reference. Now that I'm home again, the blog will get back to its normal format of including some current pet news items and tidbits of general interest, in addition to a few medical concerns. Thanks for staying with us and sending so many e-mail responses!



Don't forget to answer this week's poll question in column to the left.



As Jackie Gleason used to say, "...and away we go!"



CURRENT NEWS OF INTEREST



1)"Is your dog ready for the daily grind? On Friday, June 26, workers across the U.S. will bring their best friends to the office to celebrate Take Your Dog to Work Day." That is the lead-in to this news item from The Humane Society of the United States. Take Your Dog To Work Day was created by Pet Sitters International (PSI) to celebrate dogs as great companions. According to PSI, the annual event encourages employers to experience the value of pets in the workplace. The event also encourages pet adoptions from shelters, humane societies and rescue groups. Read more about the event at: http://www.hsus.org/pets/pets_related_news_and_events/take_your_dog_to_work_day_



Further information is also available from Pet Sitters International: http://www.takeyourdog.com/About/



If any of you have the opportunity to participate in this event on Friday, take a minute to let us know it goes for you and your pet. Just send an e-mail to: dogcatvethelp@gmail.com or submit a comment at the end of this blog issue.



2)"More than 1,500 service dogs receive free eye examinations...." begins a news report released by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, and Merial. The report describes their Exam Day back in May: "The event brought together more than 150 board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists across the United States and Canada to provide free sight-saving eye examinations to more than 1,500 dogs." To read more about this annual event, go to: http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/jul09/090701e.asp and http://www.acvoeyeexam.org/



3) The AVMA has released another podcast on MRSA and Your Pets.Most of us are aware of the dangers of the drug-resistant pathogen MRSA, particularly in health care settings such as hospitals. But as Kristy Bradley, Public Health Veterinarian and Epidemiologist for the State of Oklahoma, explains, MRSA is an emerging threat for our pets as well. To listen to this very informative podcast, go to: http://www.avmamedia.org/display.asp?sid=152&NAME=MRSA_and_Pets



Helpful Buckeye has discussed MRSA infections in a past issue ofQuestions On Dogs and Cats, which you can review at: http://questionsondogsandcats.blogspot.com/search/label/MRSA



DISEASES, AILMENTS, AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS


A long time ago, back when I was just beginning to work as a veterinarian, one of my clients, an elderly lady, brought her aging Cocker Spaniel in for an examination. The presenting complaint was a slight lameness on one of the rear legs and a generalized lethargy of a few weeks duration. After asking her some questions in order to find out a little more about the dog's history, I got ready to do the physical exam. She politely interrupted me and said, "I think he's had a visit from Uncle Arthur." I replied, "I'm sorry, but what do you mean?" She then patiently explained, "Oh, Uncle Arthur visited me a long time ago and now he's visiting my Laddie." Smiling at me, she went on, "You know what I mean...Uncle Arthuritis! That's what we've always called it."

Well, I learned something new and important that day! Most clients had a good idea of what they were observing in their pets...they just sometimes described it a little differently than what I'd been taught. I went on to see a lot of "Uncle Arthuritis" in both dogs and cats through the rest of my working days, but I always remembered my first encounter with Uncle Arthur!

Arthritis is one of the oldest diseases in history. We know that the dinosaurs had it, from evidence found in their fossils, and there is evidence that early humans lived with the same chronic aches and pains. So it makes sense that dogs and cats get arthritis, too. In fact, it is a common ailment of man’s two most common pets. Arthritis doesn’t discriminate. It affects not only people of all ages -- including children -- but also strikes our furry friends, too. If you’re a pet owner, you make sure your pet eats well, looks bright-eyed and playful, and greets you when you come home. You notice changes in mood and activity, so if your pet isn’t feeling its best you may suspect some type of illness…but it could be arthritis. In fact, arthritis affects about one in every five adult dogs in the U.S. and is one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat.

Arthritis can affect dogs and cats of any age, although we frequently think of it as a disease of the geriatric animal. There is still no cure, but veterinarians are able to offer a variety of treatment choices to allow our pets to live a fairly active and comfortable life. Early diagnosis is extremely important in finding effective medical treatment, and pet owners are the best equipped to notice day to day changes and first subtle signs of this crippling disease. Catching arthritis early is key to helping your pet live comfortably if diagnosed with this disease. So pay close attention to your dog's activities and movements.

Arthritis is basically the inflammation of a joint. When we talk about arthritis in dogs, we're usually referring to the leg joints, and describing dogs which are stiff and sore when they move. It is one of the most common reasons for a dog to visit their vet. To understand what happens in dog arthritis, we need to know what a normal joint is like. The end of a bone, where it meets another bone, is covered by a thin layer of cartilage. This cartilage allows the bones to move smoothly against each other. The whole joint is enclosed in a membrane, which also contains joint fluid. Joint fluid is a thick, clear liquid that acts as a shock absorber. It also helps to lubricate the joint as it moves. When a dog's joint becomes arthritic, the cartilage becomes damaged, and the joint fluid becomes thin. There is less cushioning and lubrication, and wearing of the cartilage may result in bone rubbing on bone. The result is pain and a distressed dog.

Arthritis can affect any joint area...some of the more common sites are:
  • Hips - Hip dysplasia ( a loose hipbone - thighbone connection) allows excessive movement in the hip joint. This leads to bone degeneration and is one of the most common causes of canine arthritis.
  • Elbows - A fragmented bony piece, floating in the joint can cause inflammation and arthritis.
  • Knees - If the cruciate ligament ruptures, it creates instability in the knee joint - allowing the tibia (shin bone) to move forward in relation to the femur (thigh bone) - which can lead to arthritis.
  • Backs and necks - If chronic disc disease develops, arthritis can occur between the vertebrae causing a condition call spondylosis. This can be a very debilitating disease.

TYPES OF ARTHRITIS

Most people consider arthritis to be a disease of elderly dogs. This isn't necessarily the case.
Degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, is the condition that most commonly occurs in older animals. It can affect any joint, but most dogs have pain in the legs and occasionally in the spine. Wear and tear over the years leads to erosion of the cartilage, especially if a dog is overweight. It can also occur in young animals if a joint has been injured, or if they were born with a joint abnormality, such as hip dysplasia.

Infectious arthritis can develop in dogs of any age. This develops when organisms enter a joint and multiply, causing pain and swelling of the joint. If only one joint is affected, the infection may have started from a wound to the joint which allowed infection to enter. However, sometimes dogs can have infectious arthritis in many joints. In this type of arthritis, the bacteria usually come from another part of the body where there is an active infection. Some possible sources of bacteria are bad teeth, abscesses or urinary tract infections. The bacteria are carried in the bloodstream into all the joints of the body.

A dog's immune system is designed to protect the body from infections, but it can sometimes do more harm than good. It is involved in the development of a particularly painful type of arthritis. When it is stimulated, the immune system can form little particles of antibodies which are deposited on the lining of the joint membrane. These little particles then cause severe inflammation in the joint, with thickening of the membrane and movement of immune system cells into the joint. Symptoms of this type of arthritis include pain, but affected dogs can also show fever, lethargy and a poor appetite.
Just to make things more interesting, immune-mediated arthritis can be further divided into erosive arthritis, and non-erosive arthritis. In erosive arthritis, also known as rheumatoid arthritis, the inflammatory cells that move into the joint release enzymes that wear away the cartilage and the underlying bone. The joint becomes very unstable and may become quite deformed.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a very poorly understood condition, and veterinarians can't really explain why a dog develops this disease. Small breeds of dogs, including Poodles and Shetland Sheepdogs, appear to be affected more than other breeds. Perhaps there's some genetic tendency that hasn't yet been discovered.

Dogs with non-erosive arthritis don't have any wearing of the cartilage, but they do have an increase in white blood cells in the joint fluid, and the joint fluid can turn into thick mucus clots.
Non-erosive immune-mediated arthritis usually occurs in conjunction with disease in another part of the body, for example certain types of cancer or infection.

When it comes to degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis), there is much more information available on possible causes of the condition. Some breeds of dog are much more likely to develop degenerative joint disease. For example, Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds have an increased incidence of hip dysplasia, which is a hereditary abnormality of the hip joint. This leads to excessive stress and wear on the cartilage, and results in pain and stiffness. Canine obesity is a major cause of degenerative joint disease in dogs of any age. It's hard work for a joint to carry excessive weight, and if a dog is carrying excess weight, it will develop joint disease years earlier than a lean and healthy dog would. Lastly, working dogs or athletic dogs such as those who compete in dog agility often put increased stress on their joints. This too can wear the cartilage, or damage ligaments, leading to osteoarthritis.

That will conclude Part 1 of the story on Uncle Arthur. Part 2, next week, will finish up with what to look for as an indication that your pet might have arthritis, treatments available, and how to possibly prevent arthritis from bothering your pet. Stay tuned....

NON-MEDICAL CONCERNS

1) The AVMA has also produced this podcast, "Caring For Your Senior Cat," which provides a nice refresher for our featured "Cat" issue 2 weeks ago. Listen to the podcast at: http://www.avmamedia.org/display.asp?sid=159&NAME=Caring_for_Your_Senior_Cat and then go back to our recent issue at: http://questionsondogsandcats.blogspot.com/2009/06/know-more-about-your-cat.html

2) The SPCA International has recognized the increasing popularity of dog parks for "canine community exercise": " As warm spring air begins to roll in, dog lovers need to prepare for more time outdoors with their furry friends. Dog parks are a great place to enjoy the outdoors, but can also be unsafe if proper measures aren’t taken. Following these simple tips will help you know what to watch for, what to avoid and how to handle difficult situations at the dog park. Educate yourself about dog body language and communication signals so you can tell the difference between fear, play and anger." They have released this list of Dog Park Safety Tips: http://www.spca.com/petcare/item/137 Following these suggestions should help you and your canine "buddy" stay out of trouble at your local dog park.

BREED OF THE WEEK

The Norwegian Lundehund has received some attention as possibly becoming the "next interesting dog breed." Part of the reason is that the breed has at least 6 toes on each foot and they do serve a purpose. The Norwegian Lundehund Association of America offers this interesting description: With just 250 or so in the United States, and around 1500 in the whole world, the Lundehund is possibly the rarest breed of dog in existence. But this dog doesn't just have a name that's fun to say (try it -- Lundehund rolls right off the tongue); it has lots of other unique characteristics as well. Lundehunds are originally from the remote islands of arctic Norway, and the name means "puffin dog." Fitting, as the breed was used specifically for hunting puffins. To aid in the hunt, the dog is polydactyl, meaning it has six working toes on each foot. American Kennel Club Spokesperson Lisa Peterson says, "Each toe has muscle and skeletal structure, which was used for climbing rock crevices." Additionally, these dogs are freakishly flexible, able to turn their heads 180 degrees, bend their face backwards to touch their spine, lie totally flat with all four legs out to the sides, and rotate their legs over their heads. Plus, they can clamp their ears completely shut for protection from the elements. Sounds like these pooches could find jobs in the circus! Perhaps the most interesting fact of all: The Lundehund was nearly extinct during World War II. Only six purebreds were left after a wave of distemper killed nearly all of them, but they've since returned to safe, if not large, numbers. While not recognized by the AKC just yet (the breed is currently in the miscellaneous category), the plan is to recognize the Lundehund in January 2011. Interested in adopting a Lundehund of your own? It's easy to understand why -- they're medium size (maxing out around 30 pounds) and "energetic, loyal and protective ... wary of strangers, but never aggressive towards people," according to the NLAA, Inc. Keep in mind, this is an outdoorsy working dog, so while, as Peterson said, "Puffins aren't required, and you don't have to take them rock climbing," they do need to be active and engaged.












The Norwegian Lundehund Association of America has more information at: http://nlaainc.com/




GENERAL INTEREST



1) Kyle Farnsworth, a relief pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, learned the hard way that you have to be very careful when trying to break up a fight between 2 dogs, even if they are your own dogs. Farnsworth tried to separate the 2 fighting bulldogs and ended up getting stitches in his non-throwing hand. Bad enough for you or me, but really bad for a guy who makes his living throwing a baseball. For the whole story, go to: http://www.fanhouse.com/news/mlb/kyle-farnsworth-bitten-by-bulldog/529848?icid=m



2) The College of Veterinary Medicine at the Ohio State University produces the Greyhound Health and Wellness Newsletter several times a year. If you have an interest in this breed and some of the rehabilitation efforts for racing greyhounds, you can read any of the newsletter issues by going to: http://vet.osu.edu/GHWPnews.htm You will need Adobe Reader to be able to view them.



3) In the 24 May 2009 issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye told you about a new airline that is specializing in pets-only airplanes: http://questionsondogsandcats.blogspot.com/2009/05/heat-exhaustion-and-your-pets



This past week, USA Today had a nice article describing this new airline and some of the different options available to pet owners who need to transport their cats and dogs by air: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/travel/2009-06-18-pet-airways_N.htm



Helpful Buckeye is wondering if the dogs and cats will be charged an extra fee every time an attendant gives them water or a piece of food!



4) Under the heading, Laid Off K-9 Police Dog Gets His Job Back!, PawNation reports that Nitro, a German Shepherd police dog for the Aberdeen, Washington Police Department was laid off, the victim of a worsening economy. However, as the story goes, his handler was able to raise enough money from other sources to get Nitro's job back: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/06/17/laid-off-k-9-police-dog-gets-his-job-back/?i

5) For this last week of June, Helpful Buckeye would be remiss for not mentioning the only dog I know with "June" in its name. Here's Junebug one more time!!! Luv that little girl!

SPORTS NEWS

The Los Angeles Dodgers still have the best record in Major League Baseball, by a large margin. Even without Manny Ramirez, the rest of the team has been playing remarkably well. Of course, the team with the next best record is the Boston Red Sox, the favorite team of my former partner and his wife. We have often joked in the past about both of our teams being in the World Series. Now, that idea is starting to look like it might have possibilities this year. And, to think I couldn't get him interested at all in baseball when I was still working with him!!!

PERSONAL STUFF

One of our readers, Janie from Wyoming, sent in this tidbit:


Q: What is the difference between a cat and a comma?


A: One has the paws before the claws and the other has the clause before the pause.



OK, I think I've got that straight! When riding my bicycle, I am guilty, at times, of going too fast for the conditions. A town council in London, England has come up with a unique solution to bicyclists going too fast in their downtown spaces:
It's a 3-D crater painted on the road surface, designed to look like the real thing! I know it would get my attention!

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762), an English writer, had this to say about reading: "No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting." Helpful Buckeye hopes that all of our readers feel the same way...read as much as you can, whenever you can!

See you next week....

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~





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