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What can you do to help your pet? Read on for the latest technologies and more that could help your pet live a pain-free life!
By Heather, Pikes Peak Vet RVT
September is National Pain Awareness Month for both pets and humans. This gives us at Pikes Peak Vet a chance to re-evaluate our protocols for treating pain. It also gives us the opportunity to talk about pain with our clients. Our goal is to help clients make decisions that will keep their pets as healthy as possible.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the leading causes of chronic pain in our patients. In fact, OA is the most common form of joint disease in mammals. (Yes, this includes humans!) For this reason, Pikes Peak Vet is focusing on OA this month. OA symptoms are often hard to notice at first because we assume the signs are just our pets getting older. For example, a dog or cat might start to play less, hesitate using stairs and/or might sleep more.
While these changes are not unusual, the key is to understand that a condition may be creating painful bone and muscle changes. When the condition is OA, it is treatable. Interventions can combat pain and progression of OA. When our pet are not in pain, that creates quality of life that can extend the time that we have with them, which is never long enough!
OA is diagnosed by a veterinarian in one of four stages. Early-stage diagnosis can happen while a pet is quite young. Fortunately, interventions such as quality nutrition, exercise, and weight control can have an enormous impact on the progression of this joint disease. One of the reasons that we ask clients to give us a pain score at each visit is to recognize any possible early indications of OA.
Over the last decade, veterinary medicine has developed the concept of a multimodal approach to treating OA. Massive amounts of research in pharmaceuticals, nutrition, photobiomodulation, aka LASER, (which stands for light amplification of stimulated emission of radiation), nutraceuticals, and physical rehabilitation have been done to see what impact each mode has on OA. The highest impact comes from a combination of these tools and therapies.
At PPVC, we upgraded our LASER machine this summer to one that does the absolute best job at targeting OA. The term for this therapy is “photobiomodulation,” or PBMT. We have successfully been using PBMT on arthritic patients for over a decade. Research showed that LASER machines that produced higher doses of energy with larger heads were more effective in treating OA. Our new Companion LASER machine allows us to perform a therapeutic dose in a shorter amount of time while keeping our patients comfortable. Our results from our upgraded equipment are outstanding. Any pet that is on arthritic medications is a suitable candidate for PBMT. Studies show PBMT greatly reduces the need for medications such as NSAIDs.
Cats cannot tolerate the use of NSAIDs like dogs can. This year has been a breakthrough for cats with the advent of a new injectable drug called Solensia. It is not an NSAID and is administered once monthly. Our clinic was given early access to this drug, and we’ve seen great results. As part of the multimodal approach, we add a PBMT session at the time of the Solensia treatment. The same drug has recently been developed for dogs and we are excited for our canine patients that do not tolerate daily NSAIDs well to use it.
Physical activity at home is also one of the particularly important modes to successfully manage OA. Dogs need to be exercised in specific ways when they have OA. Playtime is not enough to combat the physical changes from OA and dogs do not perform rehab exercises on their own. Our clinic utilizes a home exercise program that we e-mail to clients when their pets are diagnosed with OA. This program shows pictures of recommended exercises, and each exercise includes a short video with a brief written description. We also provide clients the option to “Canine Rehab On Demand” with Dr. John Waterhouse. His program provides lifetime access to a 12-week program for OA that includes lectures on nutrition, LASER, exercises, use of tools such as harnesses, etc. Adding an exercise routine to your dog’s life will increase your bond while improving their quality of life.
We encourage our clients to look for subtle mobility changes at home and advocate for their pets if any sort of pain is suspected. Reach out to us if you would like to try PBMT (LASER) treatments. We offer packages and can send you information about what they entail. Keep up with yearly exams and be sure to discuss diet, activity, and medications. We want pets and their families to live their best lives!
©Pikes Peak Veterinary Clinic, September 2023