Arthritis

Ouch! Do you ever experience sore joints on a chilly morning?

Like humans, our furry best friends can experience aches and pains caused by arthritis. These pains can become more intense over the cooler months - let us teach you a little about this common condition, so you can keep an eye out for symptoms and how to look after your pet before they become too uncomfortable.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a broad term that relates to inflammation of the joints (knees, elbows, shoulders etc.). It is known for causing discomfort, stiffness, pain and can often worsen as your pet grows older. Arthritis can affect all sorts of pets – from a tiny mouse to a 1.8m tall horse! Many different kinds of arthritis can affect your pet; some of the most common types we see are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

What causes arthritis?

Depending on the type of arthritis your pet may be experiencing, the cause can vary greatly. Some of the more common causes we see include:

  • General 'wear and tear' – as your pet ages, their cartilage (a spongey, rubber-like material that covers the end of a bone, acting as a cushion) can start to break down.
  • Genetic – unfortunately, some types of arthritis can be passed down through family lines. It is important to be aware of this or talk to your Vet about genetic conditions if you are not sure!
  • Weight-gain – Carrying a few extra kilos can put additional stress on your pet's joints, especially when they are walking, running and jumping!

Arthritis symptoms to look out for

Arthritis affects every pet in different ways. Some of the most tell-tale signs your pet might be suffering are:

  • Limping or an unusual posture/stance when moving about
  • Stiffness, especially after exercise
  • A reluctance to move or stand up
  • Changed behaviour, such as a lack of interest in playing as usual or increased sleep
  • The inability to jump on furniture, climb stairs or jump into the car
  • Irritability or depression (lack of interest)
  • Growling or biting when touched
  • Visibly deformed or swollen joints

What to do if your pet is suffering from arthritis:

Visit your vet! There are so many treatments available today, thanks to modern medicine.
Depending on the severity and type of arthritis your pet is suffering, our team will tailor a treatment plan just to them! It is also important to check that your pet's arthritis isn't an indicator of a more sinister illness.

Treatments we can suggest range from dietary supplements, special diets, weight reduction plans for overweight pets, muscle massages, specialised strengthening exercises, laser treatments, acupuncture, anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical treatments and other pain relief. We can also give you some excellent advice about making your home more comfortable for your pet (think comfy bedding, stopping cold drafts, non-skid flooring and ramps!).

Arthritis can be efficiently managed with the help of your Vet – let's work together to make sure your best friend is enjoying life to the fullest! If you're worried about your pet or think they are showing signs of arthritis discomfort, please call you local vet to organise a consultation.

 


Skin allergies in dogs and cats

By Dr Danielle Page BVSc Hill’s Pet Nutrition

What are the most common skin allergies in pets?

The most common skin allergies in dogs and cats are to things in their environment such as dust mites, pollens and grasses. These skin allergies manifest as itching and scratching, causing red, inflamed and damaged skin, a condition which is called atopy, or atopic dermatitis. Another common allergy is to fleas, which, predictably enough, is called flea allergy dermatitis. These are the big two skin allergies seen in dogs and cats throughout Australia and New Zealand and we typically see them seasonally - but some (such as dust mites) can be seen all year round. Allergies to food, while also a possibility for causing skin reactions, are actually much less common than atopic dermatitis and flea allergy dermatitis, making up only 10-15% of all skin allergies¹ and typically occur all year round.

This may surprise many pet owners, given all the focus food allergies are given in the media! It may also come as a surprise that, despite common belief, grains are rarely the cause of food allergies and most often the allergy is to an animal protein with beef, dairy and chicken being the most common allergens in dogs and beef, dairy and fish for cats.

What are environmental allergies?

The reason some animals suffer from environmental allergies is that they have a defective skin barrier which is an inherited disorder. Allergens, such as pollens pass through the skin (unlike in us where we inhale the allergens and typically get hayfever) which causes an allergic reaction. Moisture can also be lost through this defective barrier, causing the skin to be dry. This in turn makes the pet feel itchy and they scratch and lick their skin, causing further damage. An analogy you may want to think about is treated/oiled wood on a deck vs an untreated, undressed deck which represents a defective skin barrier.

While any breed can suffer from environmental allergies, there are some breeds which are more likely to have skin problems such as Golden and Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, English bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, Boston terriers, Shih tzus, Miniature Schnauzers, and my first dog (which suffered badly from environmental allergies): West Highland white terriers².

More about food allergies

For pets to be allergic to a food they must have eaten it previously in order to become sensitised to it. When the food is eaten repeatedly their immune system mounts an allergic response. A pet may have eaten the same food for months or years and then develop an allergy to it. A pet can develop an allergy to any protein fed commonly.

Food sensitivities or intolerances are quite different to food allergies in that they don’t involve the pet’s immune system. Collectively, food allergies and food intolerances are called adverse food reactions, and may result in gastrointestinal problems or skin problems, or both. Gastrointestinal signs may include loose stools, increased stool frequency, flatulence and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea. Skin signs can mimic many other types of skin disease and can include itchiness around the face and paws, ear infections and can also be generalised over the entire body.

How are adverse reactions to food diagnosed?

Unfortunately there is no blood or skin test to rule food allergy in or out. The only way to make a diagnosis is to do a food elimination trial, which involves feeding a diet made up exclusively of ingredients the pet hasn’t eaten before. In addition to looking at all the ingredients in the regular food, all treats or flavoured medications/wormers, etc. a pet may have consumed (particularly within the previous 6 months) need to be taken into account. Your veterinarian will advise what is the best food for your pet to be on during the diet trial.

Hill’s new diet for managing both environmental and food sensitivities in dogs

Hill’s latest skin care diet, Prescription Diet Derm Complete, is a breakthrough for Hill’s in the management of skin conditions in dogs, because it has been clinically tested to help manage both food and environmental sensitivities.

Derm Complete contains nutrients such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to help strengthen the skin barrier, as well as an optimal blend of vitamins and minerals to help nourish the skin and coat. Derm Complete also contains Hill’s proprietary blend of ingredients and nutrients, including phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables to help support skin function in dogs with environmental sensitivities.

Derm Complete can also help manage food sensitivities because it contains a single source of protein, egg, which rarely causes adverse food reactions in dogs, making it a great long term solution for dogs with food or environmental sensitivities, or both.

Skin conditions can have a wide range of causes and require veterinary expertise for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Be sure to consult your veterinarian about your pet's individual health and treatment options.

 

¹Mueller RS, Olivry T, Prélaud P. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats. BMC Vet Res. 2016;12:9.
²Miller WH, Griffin CE, Campbell KL, eds. Hypersensitivity Disorders. In: Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology 7 th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2013:372


The Importance Of Good Dental Hygiene For Cats and Dogs

Over 85% of dogs and cats over 4 years old have some form of periodontal (dental) disease. Dental disease causes bad breath (halitosis) and pain, it is also a source of infection and can make your pet seriously ill.

Dental disease is preventable in the vast majority of cases and in most cases, easy to achieve at home. There are many different methods to keep your pet's teeth "pearly white" and these should be started while they are puppies and kittens. While dental disease may seem like a relatively minor issue, you would be surprised at the damaging effects advanced dental disease can have on our favourite furry friends.

For adult cats and dogs with existing dental disease, a dental treatment with a scale and polish under general anaesthetic is often necessary to get their mouth back into top condition. This will allow us to start prevention with a clean mouth and hoping to prevent, or slow down dental disease developing again in the future.

teeth3

What is Dental disease?

A fairly common disease, dental disease is categorized over 4 different stages with a fairly common strand called Gum Disease. Stage 1 is very early and very mild build of tartar, which is caused by a build up of bacteria, saliva and food particles, and can progress into more severe tartar build up, signs of plaque and also the beginnings of gingivitis (inflammation of the gum line) at stage 2. The first 2 stages of dental disease are in most cases, manageable and even reversible through the introduction of appropriate dental supplements, dental related foods and a scale and polish under anaesthetic as required. As we move in to stage 3 and 4, the build up of tartar to be cleared is more severe and can cause multiple physical and behaviour issues and may require an anaesthetic to clean the teeth using an ultrasonic-scaler, by hand and most likely extractions of some of their teeth.

If you’re worried that your pet may have dental disease, some common signs include:

  • Bad breath
  • Behavioural changes (e.g. lethargy, increased aggression)
  • Discoloured teeth
  • Favouring one side of the mouth while eating
  • Loose teeth/receding gums
  • Excessive drooling, sometimes red tinged
  • Dropping of food from the mouth when eating, or reluctant to chew
  •  Inappetence
  • Sensitivity when touching the mouth/face

In order to prevent your animal from getting dental disease, early prevention is the key.

 

boxer

Some great tips include:

Brushing your pet's teeth

Yes you read it correctly, brushing their teeth! This is the gold standard of preventative dental care for your pet. Think about how yucky your own teeth feel after a day without brushing, so imagine the effect it has on your pet’s teeth after weeks/months/years without brushing. When brushing, it’s important to use a soft toothbrush and make sure that animal specific toothpaste is used. Slow circles on the teeth and soft brushing along the gum line are the correct ways. If you are starting on a middle aged or elderly dog or cat they will not be used to this activity, so take it slow and make sure the experience is always a positive one (reward with treats!). We suggest you consult with the team at your local clinic about how best to introduce brushing into your pet's routine.

 

Dental diets

A wide range of dental specific diets are available to you at your nearest Veterinary clinic. These specific food products available with essential nutrients while including the required dental benefits to keep your animal’s teeth healthy.

Hills t/d is one option of prescription dental dry food available for both cats and dogs. It is designed to keep pets teeth clean, while still providing them with a complete balanced diet. Each piece of kibble is larger than usual, specifically designed to encourage and stimulate chewing. It also has a special fibre matrix within each biscuit which aids in the breakdown of plaque.

Treats and chews

Including everything from Greenies, Prozym sticks, hard rubber, nylon chews and raw hide, treat your pets to treats and chews that will help to naturally get rid of any unwanted plaque. The chewing action aids in the removal of plaque via physical rubbing and the spread of protective saliva. These should not be relied on solely for dental prevention. Talk to the team at your local Best for Pet clinic about the best option for your pet.

Dental toys

There are some toys available which are again great at encouraging your dog to chew. Some of these toys include the Kong and Gumabone. Toys are a useful addition to a dental hygiene program, however they should not be relied on solely.

 

Veterinary Dental Treatment

In the majority of pet's lives, there comes a time when their teeth may require veterinary treatment over and above their regular examinations. A dental treatment involves a general anaesthetic and a full dental examination, including charting and scaling, both ultrasonically and by hand, and then finishing with a polish. A very similar procedure used by your own dentist.

If you have any questions about preventative tips or queries on your animal’s dental health, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our friendly Best for Pet Veterinary teams today.