Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

Arthritis not only affects people, but our beloved furry friends too. In fact, arthritis affects one in every five adult dogs in the U.S. and is one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat. Although not as common, arthritis also affects our feline friends.

What exactly is arthritis? Osteoarthritis, a.k.a. degenerative joint disease or osteoarthrosis, is an irreversible, non inflammatory degenerative damage of the bones that make up joints. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but most often affects the hips.

Signs that your dog or cat may have arthritis: Unfortunately dogs and cats are not able to tell us when they hurt. It is important, therefore, to watch for non-verbal cues closely and take even subtle changes seriously. The following are signs that your pet may have arthritis:
         -Favoring a limb
         -Difficulty standing or sitting
         -Sleeping more
         -Seeming to have stiff or sore joints
         -Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
         -Weight gain
         -Decreased activity or less interest in play
         -Attitude or behavior changes

Management of Osteoarthritis: As osteoarthritis is an irreversible disease, the goals of therapy are not to cure the animal, but rather to control pain, increase mobility, slow the destructive process in the joint and encourage cartilage repair. The following are some ways to help minimize the aches and pains:

  Drug Therapy:
Fortunately, there are multiple options when it comes to drug therapy. Often times, drugs are used in combination with one another to provide better comfort. The following are some commonly used medications:
     -Non steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as Rimadyl and Meloxicam, can be used to help reduce inflammation in the joints.
     -Other pain medications, such as Tramadol and Gabapentin, can be used in conjunction with NSAIDs to alleviate pain and discomfort.
     -Chondroprotective agents, such as Adequan, Cosequin and Glyco-flex, work to protect cartilage as it attempts to repair itself.

Please do not give your dog or cat any pain medications without consultation with a veterinarian first. Many human anti-arthritis drugs can cause serious, even fatal, results in animals.

  Weight Management and Exercise: Drug therapy is most effective when combined with appropriate exercise and weight management. Weight control is probably the most important thing an owner can do to help their arthritic pet. Low impact exercises, such as swimming or walking, are good ways to keep an animal thin and may enhance the nutrition of the cartilage.

  Surgery: If medical management fails to reduce pain and improve function, surgical intervention may be an option. There is a wide variety of surgical corrections, alteration, replacements and salvage procedures that may be helpful in certain situations.

  Other Therapies: Physical therapy, acupuncture and special diets are some more good options for dogs and cats with osteoarthritis.

Should you believe your pet is suffering from arthritis or has been recently diagnosed, keep in mind that although this condition is irreversible there are many things that both you and Encina Veterinary Hospital’s staff of veterinarians can do to control pain/discomfort and slow the course of the disease, giving your pet a full and healthy life!

Nadia Rifat DVM

Summer Pet Tips 101

    With summer approaching, we’re more likely to spend time outdoors with our pets. Whether it’s taking our dog with us camping in Tahoe or on a long walk at Newhall Park in Concord or even taking our indoor cats outside on the lawn for a roll in the grass, it’s important we be aware of what may harm our pets.

Dr. Jill Christofferson of Encina Veterinary Hospital recommends that pet owners apply sunblock on the ears, noses, etc of light colored pets (such as white cats/dogs) or pets with less than full fur (certain breeds of cats and dogs have little to no hair). Also, on the belly of dogs if they sunbathe belly-up. Should your pet suffer a sunburn, aloe vera or vitamin E may help to soothe it but a veterinarian will also be able to prescribe a mild pain-reliever to help with your pets’ discomfort.

Heatstroke in pets is all too common sadly. Leaving your pet in the car (even with the windows cracked), being left outside on a hot sunny day while you are away for hours with no water or shade or even just exercising on hot humid days (especially for brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, Boston Terrier or Pekingese) can all lead to heat stoke in your pet and even death. Here are some symptoms to keep an eye out for:
                           • Excessive drooling or panting
                           • 104-110 degree body temperature
                           • Twitching muscles
                           • Vomiting and/or bloody diarrhea
                           • Pale dry gums that are gray in color and tacky to the touch
                           • Staggering/stumbling when walking or inability to stand
                           • Wide-eyed look of distress or panic
                           • Difficulty breathing and increased heart rate
    Should your pet experience any of these symptoms, your first and best move is to seek emergency veterinary care. If you are unable to do so, here are some things you can do to help your pet cool off before getting them to the veterinary emergency hospital:
                    • Immerse your pet in cool water for about 2 minutes or hose/pour cool water on your pet.
                    • Wrap your pet in a damp, cool towel while traveling with him/her to the veterinary hospital.
                    • Get your pet to shade or an airconditioned area.
                    • NEVER use ice or freezing temperature water; this may lead to shock and cause further complications.
    Preventing heatstroke is quite easy. NEVER leave your pet locked in the car on a hot or even warm day; your car can and will become a death trap reaching temperatures well above 119 degrees. NEVER leave pets unattended outdoors with no access to shade or water; heatstroke can set in very easy and fast if your pet is already partially dehydrated. When walking your dog or exercising them, do it early in the morning before temperatures reach high levels or in the evening.

WARM WEATHER TOXINS: With everyone working hard to perfect their lawn and landscapes, a bottle of pesticides, fertilizer and other garden chemicals may be lurking. Be sure you properly close/seal all of these toxins and keep them away from your pets.

SWIMMING: As with children, never leave a pet unattended in the water; accidents and drownings happen in pets too and they need you to help keep them safe.

PARASITE, FLEA AND TICK PREVENTION: Talk to us about a year around parasite prevention program to help keep your pets, home and you, flea free. Trifexis is also offering up to a $20 rebate through August 31st, 2012 to help you get started.

TRAVEL: Secure your pet using a harness or crate when driving with your pet; though it is not a law in California, it’s better safe than sorry should you get into an accident. But it is against the law to have your pet loose in the bed of your truck; they MUST be restrained!

GROOMING: If your pet is elderly or has a long coat, consider taking him or her in to get shaved down for the summer; this will help them keep cooler as well as reduce the chance of debris (like fox tails) getting stuck in their fur (and eventually burrowing their way into your pet’s skin) since they may be spending more time outdoors.

FOXTAILS: We can never say this enough, fox tails are such a hazard! They’re everywhere and can be anywhere on your pet. Paws, ears, nose, belly and chest are common areas that fox tails get into. Abscesses, surgery, lung collapsing and punctured organs are just a few of the complications we see each year from fox tails penetrating a pet. Once a fox tail gets stuck in your pets fur, it burrows it’s way to the skin and eventually through the skin leading to an abscess which leads to further issues. One way to help protect against this is keep your pet groomed and make it a habit to brush/comb him or her each time they come inside from being outdoors. Another way is by investing in the Out Fox Field Guard (Did you know one of our very own clients designed and this?! We’re so proud!!) to help protect against fox tails in the ears, nose, eyes and face. And be sure to keep your yard trimmed and free of fox tails!

In the end, summer is a great time to enjoy the Bay Area of California outdoors with your family and pets. Keeping an eye out for these hazards will help ensure your family’s summer is full of fun and empty of harm.

Should your pet experience an emergency, don’t hesitate to call us because we are open 24 hours, 7 days a week – holidays and weekends included! (925) 937-5000

A Dog Walk to Remember


I'm Nicholas, Your Guest Dog Blogger...Would That Make Me a Dlogger?

Hello, my name is Nicholas, and I am a pint sized mutt with a big personality. My mom normally writes this blog, but she has been so busy with school these days that I took her on a walk this morning and then told her to relax while I take over. I figured it was the least I could do since she rescued me from a shelter in San Francisco a little over two months ago. My life has been so much better now that I don’t have to worry about where my next bowl of kibble is coming from.

We decided to go to our local hangout, Newhall Park in Concord. I am new to the area, but I really like this place. It has nice pathways to walk on, plenty of trees to mark, and the best entertainment ever…squirrels!! So we arrived in the parking lot, and first things first, mom put my leash and harness on me (in Concord dogs must be leashed – it’s the law). She also got out the training treats she had packed, I overheard her telling my dad that she was going to “work with me on my barking problem,” while we were out on our walk. You see, I get a little too excited sometimes when I see other dogs, and well, I yell at them as they pass by. Sometimes I say bad words to the other dogs, for no reason at all… it’s like I can’t help myself. So once we were all ready, we started on the path around the park.

We left the parking lot and looped around all of the surrounding fields. There are always lots of my squirrel buddies on the shady paths in that part of the park. Mom forgot to grab a free Mutt Mitt from the dispenser near the parking lot, so I politely held it until she was able to bag up near the human bathrooms. There were no other dogs to yell at for the first part of the walk, so Mom called my name every so often and praised me with a treat, and a “good boy!”  every 50 yards or so. This helps Mom to get my attention when I start to see red around other dogs. She learned this trick from Maggie, one of the doctor’s assistants at Encina who knows a lot about training dogs (fun fact: she volunteers her behavioral skills at the shelter where my mom got me).

We stopped and paused at the duck pond so that I could say hi to some of the locals. I managed not to bark at them, but they were a little snobby and tended to waddle away with a brusque “quack” when I leaned in for a sniff. It was a very peaceful place, and there were a lot of humans relaxing on the benches near by. We were at the park for the business of blowing off steam though and had to keep our heart rates up, so we didn’t pause for too long.

After the duck ponds was the off-roading excursion that leads to what I call “The Big Hill.” I have heard my humans refer to it as “Memorial Hill.” Whatever it’s called, it sure is steep for someone of my stature. After a quiet walk surrounded by trees the path forks, and of course Mom didn’t want to go the easy way (neither did I). I usually struggle to walk next to my person like I’m supposed to, but it isn’t hard to slow the pace on the steep gravelly part of the climb.We walked by several dogs and Mom said my name and had me sit for a treat while they passed, which definitely distracted me from barking.

Once you reach the top it is heaven! I love to survey my “kingdom”, I can almost see all the way to my grandparents’ house in Benicia, and I can definitely see my dad’s house in Concord. The wind carries such great smells up there… fresh air, wild animals, and so much more. I want to run and play in the dry grasses, but Mom held me back today because she didn’t want me to get a foxtail stuck in my nose, eyes, or paws (see the bad stuff above in the second picture from the left). She also tried to keep my nose out of the numerous animal holes, but the rat terrier in me found them hard to resist. We took a moment of silence for the veterans of the Vietnam war (Mom said that happened even before she was born, so it must have happened a really long time ago), and started our descent.

Can you see the smile on my face?

The way down is a little slippery for humans, I definitely try to stay out of harm’s way in case my mom falls on the way down (she seems a bit klutzy to me). The best part about going downhill is that the dog park is the next and last stop on the walk. I still have some more training to do before I feel okay around other dogs, but we always stop in the entrance for a drink at the doggy drinking fountain. There are separate parks for big dogs (over 30 pounds) and little dogs (under 30 pounds), to help make sure everyone stays safe. I held in my barks even without treats, and got lots of praise on the way out. One woman even complimented Mom on how good I was, which made her laugh.

All in all, it was a great way to spend an hour of our morning together. I tried to ask for another meal when we got home, but even my cutest face didn’t work (can’t blame a guy for trying). So now that I am done blogging, I think I will take my afternoon nap in the office while Mom gets some work done. See you on our next adventure!

See you on the flip-side, it's nap time!