What to expect when you take your pet to the Veterinarian

Courtesy of Roger Ross, DVM
Used with Permission

1. Thorough Exam:
In addition to checking the rest of the body for gum disease, cataracts, ear and skin disease, lymph nodes, heart and lung sounds, we will ask a lot of questions such as the duration of the symptoms and when the symptoms are worse. We will palpate the neck, spine, and limbs and do range of motion tests and tests that differentiate between ligament disease, old injuries, and arthritis. We will be looking for signs of inflammation, fever and chronic bacteremia. Gait and posture will also be evaluated for telltale clues.

2. Diagnostics:
We will discuss the benefits of doing blood work to see if the stiffness, etc might be due to something else like kidney disease, poor digestion, cramps or malaise associated with liver disease or diabetes. These same tests will make anesthesia for the x rays safer, and they will give us a base line for your dog to compare with later to make sure the arthritis medicines we choose aren’t affecting the liver.

3. Discuss X-Rays:
To get good radiographs we will sedate your pet heavily to allow good positioning and we will take advantage of this sedation and the good muscle relaxation that goes with it to repeat palpation and manipulation of the limbs. We will be looking for excessive wear-and-tear. The x-rays will help us confirm that there is arthritis, stage how much damage there is, rule out fractures and rule out cancer. If the arthritis pain and weakness is mainly coming from the hip region, x-rays will help us determine how much destruction is present, whether the problem is mostly on one side or the other and will help us decide on treatment. Sometimes the arthritic destruction is so bad that a surgery called a FHO (removal of the femur head so it doesn’t grind against the pelvis) would be helpful.

4. Treatment Trials: Whether or not you elect to do blood testing or radiographs, we have several new medications that often work great and are safe enough to try on a trial and error basis to see if your pet shows obvious improvement.

The first medication I like to try is a dietary supplemet (neutraceutical) that is available online, over the counter, in health food stores and in pharmacies. I’m talking about a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement, either alone, or, preferably mixed with some combination of MSM, Hyaluronic Acid, Yucca Root and Boswellia Serrata Resin Extract.

Glucosamine is my first choice as a trial treatment for several reasons: There don’t seem to be any significant side effects, there’s often good and obvious improvement within just a couple of weeks of treating, and it doesn’t just cover up pain. It actually increases the amount and quality of the joint fluid and slowly repairs damaged cartilage.

The glucosamine molecule is a basic part of mammalian synovial joint fluid and is also a basic building block of the cartilage matrix. The body apparently can use this molecule to increase the amount and quality of synovial fluid as well as to repair defects in cartilage. Quite a claim, but studies are pretty convincing that this is true. How much improvement? It seems to depend on the patient. The bottom line is that if you try this very safe product you have about a 30% chance of seeing great improvement in the way your pets feels and moves. You have another 60% chance of seeing modest improvement.

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Be sure to visit the Glucosamine Product Guide for a review of commercially available glucosamine products.