Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Ouch!  Arthritis hurts!  Have you felt the change in weather?  Just like us, some of our pets have the same flare ups.  So, what can be done?  The focus of this post is pharmacological management of pain.  You got it, drugs!  Whether genetics let you down, you're paying the price for a box-a-day Beggin'Strips habit, or that old injury won't leave you alone, the time will come for more proactive management.  Don't get me wrong, the whole answer doesn't come in pill form.  Things like weight loss or physical therapy can be incredibly helpful.  We are fortunate though to have a variety of safe and effective medications to help pets suffering from chronic pain problems, the most common of which is arthritis.

The mainstay of chronic pain management is the N.S.A.I.D. (Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug).  Human products (not to be given to pets!) we are familiar with in this class of drugs are Advil, Aleve, Viox, etc.  The common products we use for pets are Rimadyl, Previcox and Metacam.  They work by relieving inflammation in the diseased tissues by blocking enzymes in the inflammatory cycle.  These drugs can safely be used, daily, on a chronic basis in otherwise healthy patients.  Since many arthritic patients are older, they do need to be monitored for underlying or emerging organ problems.  Once a normal base line is established, they should have a blood panel drawn every six months.

When N.S.A.I.D.s alone are no longer effective, the patient may have a problem called spinal cord windup.  This means that, despite pain control, pain signals are still being sent to the brain like a reflex that won't stop.  There is a daily medication that helps to deal with this problems. 

If you think your pet is exhibiting signs of pain (see below), come in and see us.  Remember, many other modalities are of equal or greater value in managing chronic arthritis.  Ultimately, though, drugs will be beneficial and necessary to maintain a high quality of life for your pet.

Here are five of the most common signs of an arthritic dog:
  1. My dog is having problems getting up and down and is reluctant to climb stairs.
  2. My dog isn't as active anymore, and she seems stiff or limps after exercise or after getting up from a nap.
  3. My dog's legs have gotten skinnier, and he shakes or shivers a lot now.
  4. My dog cries whenever someone pets his rear area, and he walks with an arch.
  5. My dog is now 7 plus years old and suddenly is snapping at us and the kids.
Do any of these apply to your dog?  Maybe we should see him/her for an exam and some blood work.

~~~Brian C. Ray, DVM

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