What’s New for Arthritis for Our Pets!

Cats are not small dogs! This is a statement that I have used many times over the years. They are unique in their health issues and aging concerns. This is very prevalent in therapies for osteoarthritis (OA). We have been using multiple different therapies for dogs for arthritis for years. Cats cannot be given many of those medications.  

What is OA? This impacts the joints of our dogs and cats often anytime after 3- 5 years of age. The cartilage is worn down and bone rubs against bone. This cartilage is a protective layer within the joints. As this layer is broken down the body attempts to stabilize the joint and lays down more bone. As you can imagine this new layer of bone causes pain with movement. This pain turns into chronic pain and our pets start laying around more. Sometimes we mistake this as a normal aging change. With less activity we see additional weight gain. With additional weight we have more painful joints. This creates a vicious cycle that limits a pet’s mobility and happiness. In September 2019 I wrote a blog about obesity and how that impacts OA: Obesity and Arthritis on the Rise — Is there a Connection?

Cats are great at hiding their pain. They will sleep more. Choose not to jump up and down from objects. Stop doing stairs or limiting those activities. Sometimes not using the litter box can be related to joint pain. The location of the box, the height of the box, a hood on the box, etc. are all things that may be impacting OA and cause a cat not to use their box. People are always aware of pain when they see a limp but with these other subtle changes the OA pain can be missed.

Up until recently for cats with OA we could offer diets with glucosamine. Supplements with glucosamine for daily administration. Adequan injections administered weekly to monthly as needed for joint pain. Corticosteroids which have multiple negative side effects over time for OA. None of these treatments were as beneficial or convenient as we would have liked for our feline patients. Let me tell you what has changed.

SOLENSIA is a new monoclonal antibody injectable formula created especially for our feline patients. It has been out since the first of the year. This is the first approved long term injectable treatment for osteoarthritis in cats. It is a natural form of therapy. In cats that have received the injections their owners are returning for additional injections each month. The owners have noticed that their cats are doing activities that they were not doing before the injections. It can take up to 1 week for the body to respond to the injection. The best response is often seen after 3 monthly injections have been given. We hope that this will improve the lives of our feline patients and their owners. No one wants to give a cat a pill and cats are often very suspicious of new foods offered with medications in them. The injection is seamless and as of now we have had no side effects reported. The most common side effects reported during the clinical trial were sensitivity at the injection site and vomiting. We have seen none of this since we started offering these monthly injections.

If you think your cat is showing signs of pain associated with arthritis, we highly recommend an exam with your veterinarian.  Discuss with them the signs and symptoms and determine if SOLENSIA is right for your favorite feline friend.  Some diagnostics may be recommended prior to starting the injections. The goal of ours is to help our feline friends have pain free senior years. One client indicated that the shots allowed her cat to jump up onto the counter once again. That was one behavior she could have done without. 😊

A little side note to our discussion today on cat OA. The same company that brought us SOLENSIA is set to release a similar product for dogs called LIBRELA. We hope to have it available sometime later this fall. We will certainly notify clients when available. With each passing year we find more effective and safer products to help our furry friends live long healthy lives. Our goal is to extend their lives and allow them to bring more joy into yours.

Stay cool and please drive safely as our kids head back to school.


“Never heard of that before” was my response when told that Hughy, a 19-year-old quarter horse gelding, was diagnosed with this last month. Our daughter sold him to an amazing family in 2019 after she went off to college. We all figured he had lots of years left to help raise other young girls who would become amazing equestrians and strong confident women.

The call came as a shock that he was showing a head tilt and was uncoordinated in his movements. He was still interested in eating. He was up to date on all his immunizations. He was fine one day and showing symptoms the next. They did take him to an Equine Specialist and diagnostics were performed. He was diagnosed with Stylohoid Osteoarthropathy. I will not go into details about this condition since you can look up the information as well as I can. They do not have a direct cause but have seen one common denominator in horses with this condition. Many of the horses have a history of being cribbers. This abnormal behavior is seen in a low percentage of horses (2.4-8.3%). It has been around for hundreds of years, and as of today, we do not have a cure for those horses who show this behavior. Cribbing collars are used but not without failures being reported. Studies have shown the use of cribbing collars can lead to an increase in cribbing after they are removed. If cribbing is stress induced and a horse is prevented from doing this behavior, it could be counter-productive since the horse would not be able to reduce its stress levels. Toys have been offered as a distraction from boredom hoping to prevent cribbing behaviors. There has been evidence suggesting that there may be a genetic link since many Thoroughbreds are plagued with this condition.

Hughy came to us in 2011 as a cribber. He did this behavior at home in the stall, in the pasture, in the trailer, at the shows, etc. He always felt the need to find something to crib on. He never had digestive issues or abnormal stools indicative of ulcers. We did normal preventative maintenance with immunizations and dewormings regularly. He was given supplements designed to help his joints and digestion. He was on good quality hay and pellets and never missed a meal. I report this as a way to help others know that just because your horse cribs this does not mean you are doing something wrong. Some horses have behavioral issues that cannot be explained. Even with advancement of knowledge and treatment a complete cure may not be an option.

What I did not know was that this could have serious consequences in his future.  I am not saying that knowing this would have prevented me from purchasing a horse that cribs. I am suggesting that awareness of what this could lead to is important while making that purchase. We were up front when selling Hughy about his cribbing. His only vice really. They gave Hughy an amazing home his last years on this earth. I feel sad that he will not be around for me to watch him at the Madison County Fair or that he cannot raise another young lady into a strong confident woman. He was a gentle giant and one of the best at taking care of business and his rider at the same time.

Our daughter won highpoint on him numerous times over the years. She entered multiple competitions, and he never failed her in the arena. She did county fairs, Block & Bridle, saddle clubs, Aksarben, state fair, Quarterhorse shows, 4-H fun shows, and rode him just for fun when time allowed. He was an all around horse in the sense that he could do patterns, rail work, jumping, trail, and speed events. I should clarify, Hughy, doing speed events, it was always at ½ throttle. Even when our daughter did the State Fair Queen competitions, she would get into the top 20 but never got him to pick up the pace enough to be in the top 5. He could go full speed in the pasture but doing so with a rider was not acceptable to him.

We mourn the loss of this amazing boy who’s registered name was “A Blaze to Victory”. His name held true at many competitions over the years. He now rests in peace after running his final race and finishing strong here on earth. Forever in our hearts Hughy will be and so thankful for all the memories.

Noise Phobias in Dogs

Summertime is a great time of year for pets unless they are fearful of thunderstorms and fireworks. Many dogs in our practice panic when these loud noises are heard. They can keep the entire household up at night because of it. The challenges are real. As veterinarians we understand the frustrations for both the client and the pet. There are various options to consider when addressing these issues. I decided since we are heading towards the Fourth of July and all the loud celebrations that go along with it, a blog about noise phobias would be in order.

I just wish the suggestions and solutions to address these pet behaviors would be easy. We have more options today than we did years ago when Dr. Jim and I started practicing veterinary medicine. Even with those options, no two dogs are alike when it comes to response to therapy. There are multiple variables that impact behavioral therapies in general. Therefore, I want to stress right now that the likelihood of complete control with noise phobia treatments is zero. We can improve the behaviors and reduce the undesirable side effects. However, these pets will always be afraid, and our medications are designed just to reduce panic and its side effects.

I want to encourage people to get puppies during the seasons where storms and fireworks are plentiful. If puppies are exposed to these noises when they are younger, they traditionally will not have fears. When puppies are born in winter months with no storms to experience until they are older, this can create fear and panic. If you have a puppy or dog showing storm anxiety, do not cuddle them and offer an over-abundance of sympathy. You are just rewarding the anxious behaviors. Attempt to continue to do life as usual during the storm. This will help them learn to accept these noises as a normal part of life. If it helps, turn on lights and turn up the music or TV or a fan. Go to the basement to avoid the visual lightening effects that can add to their fears. Thunder shirts have had benefits for dogs that already have issues with noise phobias. They act as a tight comforting hug (pressure) on the torso of the dog. They are used for separation anxieties as well. These shirts are available online and are ordered according to the size of your dog. They are great for protecting surgery sites on the dog’s torso as well.

If your dog is exhibiting any of the following symptoms: keeping you awake at night, pacing the floor, drooling excessively, shaking uncontrollably, hiding, destroying your home, etc., please reach out to your veterinarian for options. The medications that are available now to prescribe are numerous. Many are human medications that have been successfully used in our dogs for anxieties of different natures. We require doing blood work and an exam prior to starting the medications to ensure that there are no underlying problems. When we begin the medications, we are doing so on a trial basis. The drug and dosages may need adjustments before we hit the sweet spot for control of symptoms. Again, owners must understand that their expectations should be improvement of symptoms, and not a complete cure.

If your pet has a history of noise phobias, please do not contact your veterinarian the day before the fireworks or storm. These work ups take time to determine the best course of action for your dog. The dosages take time to find the best levels to reduce symptoms but allow your dog to continue to function normally during a storm or fireworks. We do not have any miracles to offer on those emergency phone calls when the family and dog are all in a panic. These phobias do intensify over time so if last year was not bad, this year could be much worse. Have that conversation with your veterinarian before storms and fireworks season arrives.

Did you get a new puppy this year? This is the perfect time to introduce them to these storms and fireworks. Plan to attend events in the area where you can be prepared to offer them a meal, a treat, interactions with friends and family which distracts them from the loud sounds. If thunderstorms and rain showers are predicted, get out your rain gear and go for a walk with them in the rain. Sit out on the porch and listen to the rain while offering them their food or treats. Keep them from thinking anything scary about weather changes. In their mind, it is a time when they get food or yummy treats. Do you want to hunt with your puppy? Prepare to go trap shooting or to a shooting range with your young puppy to introduce them to these sounds at a young age. Maybe the first few trips are just to be in the area of the shooting range and with time you introduce them to shooting the gun around them. If you are seeing a fear reaction to these loud noises in your puppy, please seek professional help from your veterinarian, breeder, or pet behavioralist. Hoping they will grow out of it is not a good plan.

The staff of Winterset Veterinary Center hope you have a wonderful summer and especially enjoy the Fourth of July. We must be thankful for the freedoms we have here in America. These freedoms have come with great sacrifices over the years. It is important to remember those sacrifices and BE SAFE as you gather with family and friends to celebrate this year.

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