There are many reasons our pets slow down, and joint pain is a common one. Joint pain brings premature aging to our pets (and us too!) and reduces the quality of our pets lives. Making them less playful, less active and less fun. Lets face it, it is hard to be fun when it is painful to move. Joint pain is such a big issue that you can find any number of joint supplements on the market- some of which can make a difference.
Arthritis is the most common cause of joint pain and one that we have all heard of, if not suffer with ourselves. Arthritis is a progressive disease that causes painful inflammation of the joints that starts gradually and gets worse over time. This makes movement of that joint or joints painful and difficult. We often notice this as our pet slows down on walks, they become less playful, getting in or out of the car can be troublesome, are slow to get up or lie down and they may find getting up or down stairs or onto a favourite chair more difficult.
Traditionally, if the problem is inoperable (an operation is not going to fix the joint) the main treatment is long term painkillers- non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) these drugs most certainly have their place and can work well but they have two main failings. Firstly, they can fail to adequately improve quality of life as whilst they are better than they were without painkillers, they are still in pain. Secondly this type of drug can have long term implications on the organs that process them, the stomach, liver and kidneys.
What is new and what can be done?
At Churchcroft Vets we are passionate about our pets living as full and happy a life as possible. To help us with this we have been using a combination of four approaches with great success.
Three of these approaches involve joint injections- intra articular injections
Intra-articular injections can be used in patients with osteoarthritis to target the specific joint(s) affected. The aim of joint injections in your pet, is targeted therapy to help make your pet more comfortable and slow the progression of disease.
Polyacrylamide Hydrogel (PAAG) joint injection
In osteoarthritis, one of the first tissues to be affected is the synovium, which forms part of the joint capsule. Some of the cells that are damaged are called type B cells which are responsible for producing the hyaluron that provides the viscosity of the joint fluid, amongst other properties. A decrease in viscosity of joint fluid decreases cushioning of the joint and has been linked with an increase in pain in osteoarthritic patients.
When injected into the joint, the PAAG acts as a scaffold for the synovial cells to grow through, forming a healthy layer of synovial cells.
This is the treatment Harry, a 13 year old black Labrador was given. It is not too great a claim to say this has transformed his life. His video is on this post.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) joint injections
This technique enables repair and remodeling of injured tissues
A blood sample is taken from your pet, from which platelets are collected by concentrating and separating them from the red and white blood cells by centrifugation. This concentrate is then injected into the affected joint and the platelets are activated upon injection.
When activated, platelets release a number of different growth factors. Growth factors are stimulators, especially on cartilage repair because of their ability to recruit cartilage cells, stimulate proliferation and enhance synthesis of the cartilage matrix.
In dogs PRP therapy is relatively new but platelet-rich products have shown to promote the repair and remodelling of injured tissues and prevent cartilage degradation and breakdown of the soft tissues that surround and support the joint.
Stem Cell Therapy
Often called regenerative medicine as this technique enables the body to repair and regenerate damaged tissue. Stem cells have the ability to regenerate into specialised cells such as bone, tendon and cartilage. These can then be used by the body to repair damage that the body has been unable to heal by itself. Stem cell therapy is most commonly used in dogs for arthritic joint changes and repairs to injured tendons and ligaments.
This is a two stage technique where fat cells are removed under anaesthetic and are sent to a specialist laboratory where the stem cells are harvested from the fat cells. The harvested stem cells are then injected into the affected joint or injury, usually under sedation on a second visit to the clinic.
Superb for pain relief and healing. Your pet will be with us for just a few minutes in clinic and will usually happily sit and often even enjoy the treatment. Laser therapy has been around for a while now but is increasingly having great results in the veterinary field. But what is laser therapy, I hear you ask?
Laser therapy is light energy from that penetrates the skin reaching the mitochondria of damaged or diseased tissue leading to photobiomodulation. This process results in beneficial therapeutic outcomes such as the alleviation of pain, the regulation of inflammation (a cause of pain), and the promotion of tissue regeneration.
Most cats and dogs tolerate laser therapy sessions well and some grow to positively enjoy the sessions. You may see that your pet’s pain is reduced after the first session and most see an improvement after five sessions.