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As the cold Melbourne winter mornings set in, Dr Mitry takes a look at the preventative steps you can take to help diagnose and manage arthritis in our furry friends.

And this July at Clyde Vet, it’s “Arthritis Month” – we are making it easy for you to get any worrying symptoms seen to for complete peace of mind with a little less burden on your wallet.

Save on arthritis treatment in July, with 3️⃣ special offers…
🐾17% off arthritis injections
🐾15% off Hill’s Joint Diet or Seniors Science Diet food
🐾Buy 2 x 120 Mobility Chews, Get 1 x 60 Chews Free
on Glyde Mobility Chews for Dogs
(first purchase must be before July 31, second before Dec 31, 2019)
 

Book before July 31 and save.
CLICK HERE to book online for an additional 10% off your consultation fee
or phone Clyde Vet direct on 9052 3200.

 

Arthritis in Pets – A Silent Epidemic

Our pets aren’t always the best communicators. Any sign that an animal is in pain can be interpreted as a sign of weakness by a competitor, so our furry companions try naturally to avoid displaying any outward pain symptoms. Cats are particularly skilled at hiding their pain.

But research shows that 80% of dogs experience some form of arthritis by eight years of age and a startling 20% show some symptoms at just one year, and the numbers are not radically different for cats. There’s no question that arthritis is one of the most under-diagnosed of veterinary conditions.

Arthritis can affect one or more joints anywhere in your pet’s body, but the most common joints affected in dogs and cats are the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows. Most of these joints depend on a layer of cartilage acting as a cushioned surface so the adjoining bones can move freely. This movement is assisted by the lubrication provided by synovial fluid in joints.

With arthritis the cartilage deteriorates and the synovial fluid loses its lubricating properties so that movement of the bones causes friction in the joint which registers as pain, and that pain will worsen as the joint becomes more aggravated.

Arthritis is an incurable condition, but the worst symptoms can be managed to give your pet a relatively pain-free old age, and the earlier the condition is identified the better the prospects for effective management.

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Spotting Arthritis in Your Pet

Fortunately nobody knows them as well as their owner, and there are several obvious signs to watch out for as your pet ages. If your dog or cat is showing any of these possible symptoms of arthritis over a persistent time frame, we recommend seeing your vet as early as possible for a full diagnosis.

  • Slowness in getting up
  • Favouring a limb when walking
  • Hesitancy in actions they previously had no problem with (climbing steps, jumping up, running)
  • Decrease in activity or play
  • Laying down/sleeping more
  • Muscle atrophy/wasting
  • A hunched back or abnormal spinal position
  • Cats may resist using their litter tray
  • Reduced or limited grooming behaviour
  • Irritability when handled, especially in cats

Dog owners can scroll down to the end of this article for an interactive online quiz that you can take to help assess the risk of osteoarthritis in your dog.

arthritis osteoarthritis dogs cats signs symptoms

Managing Your Pet’s Arthritis At Home

As another Melbourne winter intensifies, the mornings are colder, and the potential for any flare up in your dog or cat’s arthritis is heightened. You can help out by making sure their bedding is warm and clean and well insulated from the cold floor. Some other things you can do to help manage the condition include;

  • Maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting excess strain on arthritic joints
  • Controlled, low-intensity exercise is essential, but make sure you carefully monitor your pet while they play, walk, or run. If possible, find a soft surface for activity such as a grassed area
  • Keep your pet warm and dry, since cold and damp conditions can aggravate arthritis.
  • Consider investing in a padded dog bed and apply warm compresses to painful joints.
  • Placing a hot water bottle or heated blanket under their bedding can also help relieve their discomfort

 

arthritic dog veterinary care

Most importantly, for dogs or cats with severe arthritis, you should consider what changes you can make to their home environment to reduce the stress on ageing joints – this could include re-locating their food and water bowls, or providing a ramp to help them access their bedding.


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By Dr Irene Mitry
Head Veterinarian – Clyde Veterinary Hospital

Unless you happen to own a Sphinx cat, the one common fact that ALL pet owners need to contend with is that your beloved companion is quite noticeably VERY FURRY.

This is great when it’s time for cuddles and pats, but we all know that fur presents its own unique problems. Their fur can tend to trap odours, house parasites and most importantly, it can obscure any emerging health conditions on your pet’s skin.

Most skin conditions are completely benign, and only represent a cosmetic threat to your pet’s well-being. But the MOST SERIOUS such conditions are very serious indeed – to the point of being life-threatening if not seen to immediately.

For this reason, it is vital for your dog or cat’s well-being that you check them regularly for any emerging issues and see your vet urgently if you find anything of concern.

That’s why at Clyde Veterinary Hospital, we strongly recommend that pet owners take just five minutes a month to perform a regular MONTHLY EXAM of their animal’s skin as part of an optimal preventative care regime, and we’ve put together this month’s blog in order to walk you step by step through the best way to do this.

And remember all June 2019 at Clyde Vet is ‘Lumps & Bumps Month’ – that means we are offering FREE fine needle aspiration biopsies with all standard bookings (regular consultation fee applies).

That’s $45 worth of FREE peace of mind on anything suspicious if you book before June 30. CLICK HERE to book online, or phone the clinic direct on (03) 9052 3200.

 

1. Scheduling the Time

One of the hardest aspects of the whole exercise is actually making sure that you build this systemically into their regular care regime.

If your pet is already taking some form of monthly medication, the most obvious solution is to make sure that you routinely perform this check immediately after giving them their medication each month.

One of the great things about this check is that because of the physical attention they get, it’s one of the few veterinary exams that your dog or cat will actually come to look forward to – and if they hate their medication, this can even be a little reward for their putting up with the tablet!

If you don’t have a regular monthly routine that a skin check can become a part of, we recommend building a little reminder into your existing calendar system – fortunately most electronic systems are great for setting a regularly scheduled reminder like this. Here’s a great list of some of the most popular digital calendar apps currently on the market for this purpose.

 

2. Performing the Check

There is no right or wrong way to perform a lumps and bumps examination, but it is important that you systematise the check in order to make sure you’re routinely checking the entire animal.

Cancers in particular can develop in some of the harder to reach areas between joints associated with the lymphatic system.

The two key elements that make up the check are really the “technique” you use to perform it, and the “route” you map out along the animal.

In terms of the technique, it’s important to note that simply running your hands along the surface of their fur is insufficient to identify anything but the largest or most obvious problems in dogs and cats.

The point here is that this is a SKIN CHECK, and you need to make physical contact with or otherwise inspect the animal’s actual skin to perform the check effectively.

Owners will need to get comfortable with stroking their fur AGAINST its natural “grain”, so brushing  BACKWARDS towards the animal’s head, rather than their tail with your fingers is the most critical aspect.

It will be much easier for short haired breeds, but you should try as best as possible to get a look at the actual skin surface, where you are looking for any unusual discolouration as well as any obvious raised lumps or disturbances of the skin.

If you identify anything unusual, make a note of EXACTLY where on your animal you found the lump or bump, and if possible take a photo of it on your phone. This will allow you to easily show the vet the area of concern and allow you to compare any changes in colour or condition of the lump.

And while it’s not technically part of a lumps and bumps check – you should make a note if you spot any fleas, ticks or other parasites in the fur or on the skin in the process, as your vet should be informed of this also at your next veterinary checkup.

 

3. Start the check at the head

We recommend starting your pet’s skin check with your dog or cat standing upright, with larger animals on the floor and smaller animals on a bench if possible.

You should begin the skin check at your pet’s head, remembering that their fur is shortest here so this region is particularly prone to skin cancers. Growths can be lurking absolutely anywhere.

Check their head carefully all over – for dogs remember to check the entire muzzle, look in their nostrils. around eyes, and in and around their mouth, and don’t forget to lift the earn on floppy haired breeds and have a good inspect of the under ear surface and in the ear.

Mouth cancer tumour dog
Cancers can often grow unobserved in your pet’s mouth

Once you’re sure you’ve covered your pet’s whole head, inspecting as much of the skin as possible, start working your way along their back to their tail, repeating the process, patting them constantly “against” the natural grain of their fur to raise it up and expose the skin before moving progressively along to the next section.

Make sure you inspect the whole tail – this is one part of the exam most pets are less than fond of, but it’s important to try and hold the tail as still as possible to allow you to at least inspect its length by touch.

You will then need to examine their underside, best done by rolling them fully on their back, and similarly inspecting their tummy fur. Pay special attention to their joints – lumps can often grow in these difficult to detect locations, and make sure you run your hands fully along all their limbs.

Conclude the exam by a close examination of the pads of all four paws, where in addition to lumps and bumps, burrs and other foreign objects can cause problems.

 

4. What If I Find A Lump?

Firstly, the most important thing is that you DON’T PANIC. The vast majority of lumps found on dogs or dogs turn out to be completely benign – even some quite nasty looking one. If you come across any of the following common types of lump, simply note and record the location and arrange to see your vet at the earliest possible opportunity.

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Some Common Lumps to Look Out For

Fatty Tumours – you may notice these soft, fatty lumps appearing on your pet, and largening and sagging with age. They tend to be more common in obese animals. Not all tumours are serious, but they should all be seen to.

Melanoma: a pigmented tumour which most frequency occurs on areas of the animal that are exposed to sunlight. Often initially circular, they may grow into a more blotchy shape and discolour with time. Melanomas are malignant and should be seen to by a vet as soon as identified.

Mast Cell Tumour – comprising of up to 25% of all tumours. They’re most common in dogs of middle and older age. Mast cell tumours can look like many other tumours, but they are actually a fast-growing form of cancer, so it’s vital to have them diagnosed accurately and quickly by a vet.

Sebaceous Cysts – these look like, basically are, and are of no more concern than the common pimple.

Warts – largely a cosmetic issue, you may notice these hard, dark circular areas of skin appear particularly around the animal’s mouth. They are nothing to be concerned with unless its annoying your pet or they are scratching at it.

Abscesses – the buildup of pus under the skin, usually associated with a wound to the pet, and usually painful or tender to the animal.

Hives – a rash of round, red weals on the skin that itch and swell. They are generally caused by a reaction of the skin to allergens such as bee stings.  They sometimes they require treatment with steroids or antihistamines.

 

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Lumps That Are Of Most Concern

As you can see, not all lumps and bumps on your pet are equally serious. For complete peace of mind, you should have anything unusual seen to by your vet, but the issue is most pressing if the lump exhibits one or more of the following features which may indicate the presence of a cancerous growth:

  • Grow rapidly
  • Change visibly in size or shape between inspections
  • Ooze or break open
  • Are firm and tightly fixed in place
  • Are abnormally coloured like melanomas

Before Seeing Your Vet

Knowing the answers to these questions before you take your animal to the vet will help them diagnose your dog’s “lump” quicker

  • Has the lump or bump appeared suddenly or has it been there a while?
  • Has the bump or lump stayed the same consistency or had the same appearance or has it recently changed?
  • Does the lump seem to separate from the underlying tissue or does it seem fixed in place?
  • Is there only one lump that you have found recently or are there multiple bumps?
  • Finally, has your pet shown any changes in behaviour such as loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or a dramatic change in overall attitude?


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