Osteoarthritis is the degradation of joints from multiple causes that ultimately lead to loss of function and in many cases severe pain and weakness.  Most senior cats and dogs unfortunately suffer from osteoarthritis.  Obesity, inflammatory causes in the diet, and non-diagnosed or untreated lameness can also lead to arthritis.

This can also strike young dogs that have survived trauma or have hip or elbow dysplasia.  A dysplastic joint is one that doesn’t fit together like it should.  The constant instability in this “loose”  joint that is meant to be “tight” leads to inflammation and ultimately the degradation of cartilage and subsequent pain.   If your dog has been diagnosed with dysplasia, we can teach you how to guide your dog in exercises to slow the progression of muscle loss and subsequent pain and disability from arthritis.

Pain and discomfort from arthritis will make pets less active.  Muscles become weak and joints become stiff, limiting range of motion and thus function.  Just like the “bone on bone” contact that causes pain in people, this becomes a dangerous downward spiral of inactivity and can lead to a point of no return.

Range of Motion is crucial to maintain for many reasons.  If a joint is immobilized either by choice or mechanics, the joint fluid doesn’t move.  Joint fluid is what feeds the cartilage, so just by performing range of motion you can move the joint fluid to slow the onset of degenerative joint disease.  Range of motion also prevents muscle and ligament restrictions.  Animals in pain will limit their range of motion so the loss of function of one aspect of the body cascades to the loss of function in many areas.  The key is to learn these exercises in a safe manner, as our goal for physical therapy is to provide relief, not cause pain.

Rehabilitation therapy involves an integrative approach.  Pain management is the first step.  Our rehabilitation team can augment your veterinarian’s current treatment plan through the use of appropriate medications and modalities.  We can help you determine if your pet is in pain.  Medications are commonly indicated, but as many of these patients are senior and have health concerns, our team will work with your veterinarian for the safest alternatives to help your pet become as pain free as possible.  Contrary to popular belief, it is imperative that pain is controlled and ideally prevented for best healing before the pain pathway becomes imbedded in the body.  When medications aren’t safe we can use acupuncture and/or chiropractic as indicated.

One of the most important aspects is weight management.  Our trained specialists can help determine the ideal weight of your friend and provide safe and appropriate exercise for them as well as diet recommendations to help them reach a goal.  Studies have shown that ideal weight can have the same effect as non-steroidal medications.

Proper diet is essential for healing and for maintaining healthy muscle.  Our evidence-based nutritional counseling can help you determine the best diet for your pet based on breed, activity and medical conditions.

Supplements such as chondro-protectants (cartilage/joint protectants) and Omega-3 fatty acids can help with pain relief, injury prevention and restoration.  Our evidence based knowledge can help guide your selection and determine the best way and form to administer these to your pet.

Rehabilitation therapy also includes many other modalities for pain relief and muscle building/restoration.  These can consist of simple at-home therapies such as ice and heat, range of motion exercises, stretching, specific targeted exercises or modalities used at the clinic.

The success of your rehabilitation program is immensely complimented by what you can do at home.  We can teach you many therapies to do at home that can really help improve your pet’s comfort when chronic conditions exist as well as recover from injuries/surgery.  Massage, range of motion exercises, stretching, appropriate use of ice and heat as well as guided exercise programs will help you facilitate and maximize the response your pet has to rehabilitation and recovery.  This is always individualized based on patient compliance and guardians’ abilities.