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Overcoming Joint Disease: Back on My Paws Again!

Published: March 29, 2010

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Pets are just as susceptible to joint disease and disorders as people are. Just as people can pull a muscle or twist an ankle, pets can develop soft-tissue injures that affect their muscles, ligaments, tendons or joints by running, jumping or falling.

Arthritis is a common problem in older pets and in overweight pets. Arthritis is inflammation in the joint that can cause stiffness, swollen joints, decreased physical activity and limping. Depending on the pet’s condition, veterinarians may recommend using medication, physical therapy or acupuncture to ease the pain, while more severe cases may require surgery.

Rehabilitation Therapy: Called “physical therapy” when people are treated, in pets it is called “rehabilitation therapy.” Veterinarians who are credentialed in rehabilitation therapy use underwater treadmills, electrical stimulation, exercises, massage and other equipment that has been adapted from similar equipment used for physical therapy in people. Rehab helps pets recover from surgery quicker. For pets with joint disease or who are overweight, rehab improves mobility and flexibility, improves their strength, and decreases the need for pain medication.

Acupuncture: Certification is needed for veterinarians who provide acupuncture treatments to reduce pain, reduce inflammation and improve circulation in pets. Acupuncture is a safe, effective way to control pain and has been used for thousands of years in both people and pets. Tiny needles are inserted into certain points of the body to cause the release of naturally occurring, pain-reducing chemicals such as beta endorphins. The needles are so small they cause minimal discomfort and present no ill side effects. The treatment can be used for both cats and dogs.

Don’t let joint disorders and pain slow your pet down from living a long, comfortable life. There are many options available today, and a discussion with your family veterinarian will determine the best course of action.