As the weather gets colder and damper, we’re starting to see more and more older pets presenting with stiff joints. In the majority of cases, these are due to osteoarthritis. While this condition is not curable (yet!) it is manageable, and we’re really proud to be able to offer a genuinely cutting-edge treatment option for this devastating condition. In this blog, therefore, we’re going to look at arthritis in dogs and cats and how we can use the MLS Laser to treat it.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis just means inflammation of the joints, and while there are several types, by far the most common is osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. This causes the joint to become inflamed, stiff and painful, reducing mobility and quality of life.
Why do pets get arthritis?
As a general rule, pets develop arthritis if they put more weight through a joint than it is able to handle (e.g. obese or overweight patients), if their joints are suboptimal (e.g. dogs with hip or elbow dysplasia), or through sheer old-age wear-and-tear. Even in otherwise absolutely healthy animals, old age often brings on arthritic changes, and symptoms can often be worsened by cold or wet weather.
What are the symptoms?
It depends on species to some extent – typically, however, joint pain and stiffness, with reluctance to move. In dogs, it is often noticeably worse first thing in the morning but improves with gentle exercise – then worsens again if they “overdo it”. A reluctance to climb or jump is also common, which can make it difficult to get into a car or bed; and in more severe cases a visible limp can develop.
Cats tend to be more subtle in their symptoms – and are better at hiding them. Arthritic cats are typically more lethargic, less active, and spend more time sleeping. In some cases, “accidents” around the house may happen because it’s harder to climb into a litter tray. However, these are not necessarily signs of old age, but of severe pain that they are hiding.
How is it treated or managed?
There are a wide range of treatment options, from weight loss to improving the environment (non-slip floors, ramps, warm beds), to nutritional supplements (e.g. Nutraquin) that provide basic ingredients for the body to maintain joint health, to anti-inflammatory and painkilling medications. In most cases, several different approaches need to be combined for the best outcome. While anti-inflammatory drugs are the mainstay of treatment and are often the most effective treatment, they do have potential side effects, especially at higher doses. This is why laser therapy is so useful – and so important!
What is Laser Therapy?
Our laser system is known as a “cold laser” because it does not produce any significant heating of the tissues. The effect is generated by using specific frequencies of light that alter the way cells in the targeted areas use and generate energy. In the lab, laser light of the right power and frequency settings can improve cell health, regeneration and healing, and can reduce pain and inflammation.
For more details, see our in-depth blog from last year on laser therapy!
How effective is it?
This is the most impressive part – we use laser treatments alongside a nutritional supplement, Nutraquin. In combination, the two appear to be synergistic, resulting in a 90% improvement in symptoms over a 10-day trial. And it’s a non-invasive technique with no known side effects as long as the eyes are protected (all our patients wear special goggles during a treatment session for this reason). Overall, we’re seriously impressed with how effective this can be!
If you’d like to find out if your pet might be suitable for laser treatment, make an appointment to see one of our vets. Because this is a service we offer in-house, there’s no need to make referral appointments or travel to a specialist referral hospital – we do it here on the premises!