Walking, Running, jumping with joy, these words would aptly describe a happy, healthy dog who is full of energy. We may face a time when our dogs are not-that enthusiastic about walks or jumps as they were before. This could be a hint towards joint related issues in cases where other signs of febrility are absent such as diarrhoea etc. what basically are joint related issues, how do they manifest and what are the signs we could look out for. In today’s blog, we aim to target this issue of mobility-related problems, joint issues and so on. Let us understand the basics. What is mobility after all?

A TALK ABOUT WALK: WHAT IS MOBILITY, WHAT ARE THE SIGNS TO WATCH OUT FOR?

Mobility term refers to the ability to move freely without any signs or evidence of discomfort. The signs of discomfort in cases of mobility issues vary from a wide range, starting from mild degree discomfort to severe mobility issues coupled with severe level of discomfort. Mobility can be hampered due to ‘n’ number of reasons such as hip-related issues, joint inflammation/infections, immune mediated arthritis, fractures, dislocations, joint pain, trauma, etc.

Certain conditions are quite easy to diagnose such as fractures while some conditions such as mild hip dysplasia may be overlooked upon due to the cryptic nature of the discomfort, as the only signs pet parents notice are that of altered gait style. However, the signs are still evident. Here are some of the signs which may help guide you regarding mobility issues:

1. Altered walking pattern:

As simple as this may sound, paying close attention to the walking style can act as an important key to determine the physical health status of your pet. Next time, when you take your dog on walk, notice any particular change which is quite evident. Notice the way your dog walks, if they:

  • Limp while walking
  • If limping, which leg
  • If you notice your pet not placing one limb on the ground [due to any reasons]
  • If your pet is not that enthusiastic about walking as they were before
  • If your pet is not able to or not willing to walk for a long time

These signs can hint towards mobility issues [ due to hip, bone, muscle, etc.]

2. Reluctance to climb up/down:

If your pet is reluctant to climb on sofas, bed as opposed to before, there is a chance your pet might be suffering from some joint/hip issue. Lameness is the term used for when the animal is seen as lame, doesn’t wish to walk or is moving with difficulty. Lameness could be severe to very mild depending upon the severity of the disease and disease progression.

3. Muscle Atrophy:

if you notice muscle mass reducing or have been reduced in size on one of the thigh-region[mostly], that could be a hint towards muscle atrophy which is primarily due to disuse of that part (Disuse Atrophy). Atrophy essentially means reduction in size of cells or body part, which is because of non-use or disuse of that organ/part. What happens here is, due to pain/discomfort the animal is reluctant to use that affected part or the leg as a whole. Which is why there is less use or disuse of that affected part, thereby leading to atrophy.

4. Evident signs of Swelling/Pain:

Sometimes, the disease progresses rather quickly without giving you a longer time frame to analyse and work on. For instance, n cases of fractures or dislocations, there is swelling and pain instantly visible on and around the affected area followed by altered walking pattern such as signs of limping, not bearing weight on that limb becomes very evident and frank.

BUT WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR MOBILITY RELATED ISSUES?

We can broadly classify this disease process as follows:

  1. Joint- related issues [Arthritis]
  2. Due to Lifestyle and habits
  3. Due to Auto-immunity
  4. Due to Trauma

Let us look at these causes one by one.

1. JOINT RELATED ISSUES [ARTHRITIS]:

Joints are the structures which help align two bones and allow some degree of movement along the plane. The inflammation of joint is termed as arthritis. Joint Inflammation and degeneration can be caused by trauma, infection, Auto-immunity, ageing, etc. However, there are different types of arthritis such as:

  1. Osteoarthritis
  2. Immune- Mediated Arthritis 
  • Osteoarthritis is also called as Degenerative Joint disease which as the name suggests is due to the degeneration of the joints. This condition is characterized by the thinning of cartilage, building up of synovial fluid within the joint or in some cases, diminished flow of synovial fluid causing the articular surfaces to rub against each other, and the formation of bony outgrowths or exostoses of the joint region. This leads to inflammation of the joint membrane, cartilage destruction and inflammation, thus triggering pain, lameness and so on. 
  • Immune-Mediated Arthritis essentially refers to Rheumatoid arthritis. The term Auto Immunity means – ‘The body’s immune system starts reacting against self-[Auto] body cells’

Immune System of our body acts as a defence wall or fortress system against foreign particles such as bacteria, viruses dust particles etc. Immune System cells will attack such foreign particles, kill them and then expel it out of the body. However, in this condition of rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system becomes a bit dysfunctional and starts misinterpreting and recognizing some of its own body protein for foreign protein. The body reacts to the antigen by producing antibodies which bind the antigen and on binding, they end up forming Immune complexes called as ANTIGEN-ANTIBODY COMPLEX, which in this condition gets deposited in the joints thereby triggering pain and mobility related issues.

2. LIFESTYLE AND HABITS:

Sedentary lifestyle does no good to an individual, may it be pet parents or pets themselves. Obesity is one of the major factors which can trigger a cascade of disease processes one of which is hip-issues and mobility issues. Hip dysplasia is characterized by a loose joint followed by subsequent degenerative joint disease or otherwise termed as osteoarthritis. Too harsh exercise, poor nutrition, and hereditary factors contribute to the occurrence of hip dysplasia. Due to some idiopathic or genetic factors too, this condition could be triggered in younger dogs who are still in the growing phase or are too young to be suffering from any joint-bone problems. Hip dysplasia is one of the commonly presented causative agent for reduced mobility. 

3. TRAUMA:

Direct trauma can lead to fractures, dislocation, lacerations, bruises which can affect the motility to a certain level. Which is again manifested in the commonly observed signs and symptoms [refer above].

HOW ARE THESE CONDITIONS DIAGNOSED?

As we mention in most of our blogs, diagnoses is the key to successful treatment. If the causative agent is due to motor car accident, we may look into fracture or bruises etc as the troublemaker. However, if in absence of trauma, your dogs/cats experience signs of pain, discomfort, lameness, walking/climbing/jumping issues, the Veterinarian may shift their attention to figuring out who or what is the cause of all causes. Here are some of the tests which may be recommended by your vet.

  1. X-RAY – An X-Ray would be warranted to rule out fractures or any bone deformities. X-raysare highly efficient in imaging the bones and bony-processes and thereby help us to figure out where exactly the fracture or the bone deformity lies. The bone deformities could be due to ageing or due to genetic factors [if they are young dogs] or due to nutritional deficiency [e.g., Rickets in puppies] An X-Ray can also help us figure out whether the issue lies at the joints and whether the joints are getting worn out/ due to immune mediated rheumatoid arthritis.
  2. Blood test – to rule out any infections which can affect the mobility of dog. For instance, in rheumatoid arthritis, a special blood test to check out for “Rheumatoid Factor” can be done too.However, this factor is not that sensitive as even dogs with no rheumatoid arthritis canhave this factor shown up in the test.
  3. Synovial Fluid Test – Synovial Fluid is present in the joints of all animals includinghumans.This fluid acts as a shock absorbent, which helps in the maintenance of proper movement and mobility of the joints which of course has a huge role to play as it also helps in locomotion.The synovial fluid is analysed and if affected with inflammation [arthritis] will show characteristic typical changes.Cells involved in inflammation are present in large numbers, which is indicative of ainflammation process occurring within the joint capsule. The fluid is usually cloudy in appearance and is of athinner consistency than normal in such cases of arthritis

  4.  Biopsy of tissue and CT scans can also aid in diagnostics.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL: ROADWAY TO RECOVERY.

Most of the health issues pertaining to mobility, joint-related problems are quite common in the middle-aged to elder group of dogs. Sometimes due to genetic factors coupled with poor habits and obesity, these diseases can eventually get triggered in younger group of dogs. It is essential to keep an eye out on any of the unnatural behaviour our pets may exhibit hinting towards joint-bone-related problems. When we catch diseases or disorders at an early stage, we can essentially improve the standard of living of our pets at the earliest and provide them with good medical facilities and treatment.  Let us discuss some of the medical treatment options:

  1. CHANGE OF HABITS AND LIFESTYLES: A minor change every day on a small-scale basis can help your pets in the long run. Lifestyle invariably is coupled or intertwined massively with diseases and disorders. What you can do is, opt for a good healthier lifestyle. If your pet has been diagnosed with let’s say, hip dysplasia for instance, your Vet may suggest you to alter your dogs’ feeding habits and loosing weight could ultimately prove to be helpful in long term management of such disorders. No more puppy eyes and overfeeding! 
  1. LIMITING UNWANTED STRESS ON JOINTS:Jumping, running excessively, straining joints is totally not acceptable when in case your pet has joint related issues. Until recovery or until the major signs of joint-pain and discomfort subsides, ensure that your pet has limited to no access to such sofas/beds/etc which may require them to jump/run/move too frequently in such a manner that it may put undue strain on the joints hampering their recovery process. 
  1. JOINT SUPPLEMENTS: Joint supplements are one such important tool which provides necessary elements which helps comfort, subside signs and improve the standard of living extensively. These supplements usually contain Chondroitin Sulphate, Glucosamine hydrochloride,Omega-3 fatty acids Hyaluronic Acid, and such related contents which are exclusively important for joint health. 
  1. HOMEOPATHIC SUPPLEMENT: Me & My mobility Pet supplementation is very useful for the pets’ showing symptoms of articular or muscular rheumatism with or without inflammatory and febrile complaints. Other symptoms like stiff neck, rheumatic pain in the shoulders, twitching, stiffness and pain in the joints, cracking of joints, etc., are also managed.

Mobility impacts the lifestyle of our furry paws tremendously. It is quite a challenge to aid our ailing pet. It is a matter of concern when our pets are not able to exhibit their normal behaviour because, this, mountain of mobility-issue is rendering not only our pets’ but also pet parents- immobile. However, there is always a brighter light at the end of the tunnel. With prompt diagnosis, prompt treatment or management, we can fight this battle easily. One thing which we often learn from these voiceless animals is that They never give up, nor do they ever cease to be happy. We, as pet parents should adopt this attitude of never-say-never and look at the brighter picture even in the darkest hour. Let us fight this mountain of mobility issue and when your furry best friends are back on track, ensure that you celebrate with great joy and of course, with walking an extra mile just to enjoy the sunset with movement and mobility at its best, because, THAT’S THE MOVE!