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North Hills Monthly

Joint Health Important Component of Pets’ Care

Aug 29, 2019 09:28AM ● By Kathleen Ganster

Dr. Cindy Maro of Cranberry Holistic Health Pet Care

Our pets are part of our families and when they suffer, we suffer. Unfortunately, for many animals, joint health can be a problem, particularly in certain breeds of dogs.

“Larger breeds are definitely more prone to issues with their hips and lower backs. Smaller dogs tend to have more knee issues if they have shallow grooves for their kneecaps,” said Dr. Shannon Thieroff, CEO and owner of Choice Restorative Medicine, who provides animal chiropractic services under the auspices of BelaCoop Animal Hospital of North Park. “And athletic and working dogs, and dogs that are really active and hard players or leash pullers, tend to injure themselves more.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that dogs have health issues just like their human owners. Dr. Thieroff said their joints are subject to wear and tear, including arthritis, strains, muscle issues and misalignment.

“When the joints are misaligned—especially over time—it can create abnormal movement patterns or gait and can become painful,” she said.

And of course, just like humans, more active  animals may be subject to more joint issues.

But it isn’t just older animals who suffer. Younger animals may have health issues as well. Dr. Thieroff suggested watching for changes in behavior or movement including new sensitivity with and on certain parts of the body; reluctance to jump; bending their head to eat or play; limping; sitting differently; being withdrawn or vocalizing pain.

Jessica Kirsch decided to take her boxer, Loki, to Dr. Thieroff after receiving treatment from the doctor for her own chiropractic issues.

“Loki hurt his neck really badly when he was two, and we tried all sorts of treatment. Chiropractic was a last-ditch effort and it worked so well, we have been taking him ever since,” she said of Loki, now 9.

Older pets often suffer with undetected arthritis, spinal subluxations, muscular pain and degenerative spinal conditions, according to Dr. Cindy Maro, CVA, CAC, VMRT, integrative veterinarian at Cranberry Holistic Health Pet Care, with locations in Ellwood and Chippewa.

“Untreated and undiagnosed dysplasia of hips and elbows (which can be found through early screening x-rays when pets are young), and intervertebral disc disease can also contribute to decreased mobility, and muscle spasms,” she said.

Additionally, untreated nutritional and hormone imbalances, including thyroid disease and Cushing's disease, can lead to a profound decline in musculoskeletal health.

Dr. Maro shared that all too often, pets are fed more than enough calories, becoming overweight but nutrient deficient.

“For example, they may not be getting the right balance of minerals, organ meat, cartilage and bone in their diets. This malnutrition leads to muscle, bone, tendon and ligament breakdown, including ACL tears,” she said. “Keep in mind that when pets become less active, they are more vulnerable to injury and advancing arthritis, which creates a bad cycle of decline.”

Both Drs. Thieroff and Maro stressed that with so many varying symptoms, it is important to make sure that your animal receives regular diagnostic evaluations.

“There are many options to help animals. Traditional options would be to use veterinary medicine or other veterinary interventions. Alternative medicine options would be chiropractic, acupuncture, massage or supplements,” Dr. Thieroff said.

She assists animals by providing chiropractic adjustments to their spines and other areas of their bodies. These adjustments help to correct misalignments, which allows the nervous system, joints and muscles to work properly and to heal.

Dr. Maro offers traditional care, along with animal chiropractic, rehabilitative therapies, underwater treadmill, therapeutic massage, laser therapy, acupuncture, prolotherapy, Sanawave, Stem Cell/PRP, vitamin injections, Chinese herbs and supplements.

“These treatments can help improve mobility, but not without providing nutrients that complement pets’ health status,” Dr. Maro explained. “For example, a pet with kidney disease may be on a restricted protein diet, but that can contribute to declining muscle strength. I work with pets to assure that they receive the right protein types to help them with both issues.

“Dog owners observe decreasing mobility and seek care, but too often the animals are simply given NSAIDs, which mask pain rather than treat it,” she added. “Loss of function and pain are better treated through alternative modalities, and up to 80 percent of my patients don’t require NSAIDs.”

It isn’t only dogs who may be at risk for aging issues.

“Cat owners need to be extra vigilant, because aging felines do not display pain, so arthritis is underdiagnosed,” said Dr. Maro. “If your cat becomes less active, be certain to get regular x-rays and bloodwork. Nutraceuticals and adjusting can improve their quality of life.

“It’s wise to be proactive with older pets, seeking diagnostics to monitor health,” she continued. “If you’re told there is nothing more that can help, look for integrative therapies to improve your pet’s quality of life.”

It is important to remember that, just like with human health care, there are numerous options available for your pet’s care. Pet owners should ask about all available options and discuss them with their pets’ health care providers.