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What is Cauda Equina Syndrome in Dogs?

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    What is Cauda Equina Syndrome in Dogs?

    Photo Credit: Germanwatchdogs.com

    Cauda Equina Syndrome, or lumbosacral stenosis, refers to the slowly progressing disease as the calcification of the dog’s spine increases with age. The disease is essentially a severe and painful form of arthritis in the joint at the bottom of the spine. As the disease progresses, the spinal canal gets narrower and compresses the nerves in the surrounding area. This causes extreme pain for the dog especially while walking or wagging the tail. In many cases, the disc located between the sacrum and the vertebra may be deformed which causes even further compression on the nerves. Once the nerves have been completely compressed, the dog will not be able to use the back legs or control bladder and bowel movements. 

    What Causes Cauda Equina Syndrome in Dogs?

    There are a number of causes behind Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs. There are two forms of the disease – Congenital and Acquired. 

    Congenital Cauda Equina Syndrome refers to when the dog is born with the disease due to structural issues from birth such as spina bifida or hemivertebrae. 

    Acquired Cauda Equina Syndrome means that the dog acquires the disease and is caused by an event such as injury, infection, or tumor. This can include fractures or dislocations of the vertebrae in the region, herniated disc of the last intervertebral disc, and tumors in the bones or nerves. A herniated disc is the most common cause of the disease when presented in the acquired form.                                                                       

    Who’s At Risk of Developing Cauda Equina Syndrome?

    Large breeds such as the German Shepherd and Great Dane are more prone to developing the disease. Dogs with long spinal cords like the Beagle and Dachshund are also among the most susceptible to developing Cauda Equina Syndrome. Additionally, the disease has been observed to occur more frequently in dogs with previous hip dysplasia or patella luxation.       

    What are the Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome?

    Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome usually are not observed until further into the progression of the disease. Typically, these symptoms are seen between the age of three to seven years old. The most evident sign of the disease is pain in the dog’s rear legs, tail, and back. Other symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome include: 

    • Difficulty getting up 
    • Poor coordination 
    • Changes in posture 
    • Unable to climb upstairs 
    • Weakness in rear legs and muscle loss 
    • Incontinence or trouble urinating and defecating
    • Unable or unwilling to move tail 
    • Chewing on rear legs and tail 

    How Can Cauda Equina Syndrome In Dogs Be Prevented?

    While it’s impossible to prevent most causes of Cauda Equina Syndrome, you can reduce the risk of a herniated disc, which is a common cause of the disease. For higher-risk breeds, limit high-impact activities, jumping on and off furniture, and maintain a healthy weight in your dog. 

    How is Cauda Equina Syndrome Diagnosed?

    Cauda Equina Syndrome is often difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic a number of other conditions such as hip dysplasia, prostate disease, and spinal tumors. A proper and definitive diagnosis requires a thorough physical examination, laboratory tests, and imaging. During the physical examination, your veterinarian will most likely confirm that your dog has pain present in their lower back, tail, and hind legs. Following this, radiographs will be performed to confirm spinal degeneration. However, degeneration is common in other diseases, so an epidurogram and myelogram will be performed to properly diagnose. Both of these tests use a contrast dye in combination with radiographs and CT scans to get a more detailed view of the spinal cord. 

    What is the Treatment for Cauda Equina Syndrome?

    There are a number of treatments for dogs with Cauda Equina Syndrome. Both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options are available depending upon your dog’s needs. 

    Nonsurgical treatment is often used in more mild cases. Corticosteroids or NSAIDs are often prescribed first to relieve inflammation and pain. Cortisone injections are one route to go for immediate relief. Your veterinarian will likely recommend cage rest for up to two months while continuing to keep your dog exercising daily in order to not lose muscle mass. As the symptoms and condition worsen, further treatment is typically necessary. 

    For dogs with more severe cases of the disease, a  few surgical options may be viable. Decompression or a dorsal laminectomy is the most commonly performed and is the surgical removal of the degenerated disc itself. For this procedure, an incision is made at the top of the spinal cord and is used to remove the bone and sometimes ligaments that are pressing on the nerves. Following this, fusion is done to strengthen the spinal cord and stop the compression. Depending upon the specific instance, this is done by either using bone from another part of the dog’s body or a metal plate. 

    Many dogs will be able to manage the condition with nonsurgical treatment initially and not require surgery for several more years.

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    Natural Remedies for Joint Pain in Dogs

    cbd for natural joint pain relief
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      Joint pain affects many dogs, especially as they become older and become more prone to developing arthritis and other joint conditions, to which we are often searching for natural remedies for joint pain in dogs. The lack of proper cushioning in the joints causes your dog’s bones to rub against each other causing great discomfort and pain. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for arthritis in canines. However, there are a number of natural remedies for joint pain  in dogs that can help manage the condition. 

      What Are Some Natural Remedies for Joint Pain in Dogs?

      Glucosamine

      Photo Credit: NaturVet

      Glucosamine is the most common type of supplement for natural joint pain relief in dogs. It’s a naturally occurring compound in both human and animal’s bodies but the supplement helps keep up with cartilage health. It reduces pain and stiffness in arthritic joints by reducing inflammation, inhibiting cartilage loss, and improving cartilage repair making it one of the most popular natural remedies for joint pain in dogs.

      Hydrotherapy

      pug swimming in a pool
      Photo Credit: Petguide.com

      Hydrotherapy is defined as “the use of exercises in a pool as part of treatment for conditions such as arthritis or partial paralysis.” Hydrotherapy with underwater treadmill work essentially allows for rehabilitation and exercise by taking the weight off of the compromised joints and allowing movement that would otherwise be painful or impossible. The viscosity of the water actually increases the work that the muscles are doing at the same time. There are three main types of hydrotherapy for dogs:

      1. Pool-based: During a pool-based hydrotherapy session, a dog is placed in a life jacket with a handle on top for the therapist. The therapist supports the dog in the water and allows them to swim while holding them up. Depending on the strength of the dog, they may also let it swim on its own. This can be done in a regular pool or a specially designed hydrotherapy tub.
      2. Underwater Treadmill: In essence, there is a treadmill belt that can be adjusted in a tiny tank of water filled with warm water. The therapist walks alongside the dog on the treadmill or may be harnessed in. This type of hydrotherapy can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each dog.
      3. Whirlpool Therapy: Whirlpool treatment is similar to a jacuzzi for dogs, and it helps to ease pain caused by medical conditions or surgery. The water level is altered once the dogs are harnessed and lowered into the whirlpool. The damaged muscles are then massaged with a heated jet stream. 

      Acupuncture

      beagle with acupuncture needles
      Photo Credit: Fear Free Happy Homes

      In acupuncture, needles are inserted through bundles of nerves into the body tissue, where blood vessels converge. Acupuncture improves blood circulation to the nervous system by stimulating and releasing anti-inflammatory and analgesic hormones making it an ideal natural remedy for joint pain relief in dogs. Applying pressure to the acupuncture point at the selected effect is comparable to inserting needles.

      The technique requires inserting a fine needle into the dog’s body at certain points, called acupuncture points, where nerves and blood vessels converge. These points are located at so-called meridians, where energy channels transmit energy throughout the dog’s body.

      CBD

      cbd for natural joint pain relief
      Photo Credit: Health Magazine

      Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a chemical molecule present in both humans and animals that is part of the endocannabinoid system. Non-psychoactive cannabinoid produced from cannabis or hemp. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) gives you a “high,” while CBD doesn’t. In order to not have THC, CBD products are derived from hemp and not from marijuana. The majority of CBD products do not contain THC and if they do, they are purchased from a cannabis dispensary. 

      Some research and anecdotal data suggest that CBD may be useful in treating joint pain, making it an intriguing natural remedy for joint pain in dogs. CBD for dogs started out as simple oils but with the market expanding, there are many different types of CBD products available. Some of these include CBD treats, CBD-infused broth, and so much more. 

      Turmeric

      jack russel sitting behind a plate of tumeric
      Photo Credit: Organic Facts

      Turmeric is widely known as a spice rich in antioxidants. The active ingredient, curcumin, possesses anti-inflammatory properties. It’s believed to work more effectively for joint pain and stiffness than conventional pain medications. In addition, turmeric has  less gastrointestinal side effects than other pain medications, making it a great natural remedy for joint pain in dogs. Turmeric can be found in various forms including powder, liquid, capsules, and chewable tablets. 

      Laser Therapy

      dog getting laser therapy
      Photo Credit: Pawsh Place

      Laser therapy is a non-invasive photobiomodulation therapy to help in the rehabilitation of different conditions. Laser therapy uses light as a way to increase blood circulation and stimulate cell regeneration. It’s been used on humans for decades but laser therapy has been used on dogs in recent years. It essentially promotes healing while reducing inflammation and pain. There’s two types of laser therapy:

      1. Cold Laser Therapy: treats the surface of the skin
      2. Hot Laser Therapy: treats deeper tissues

      When it comes to how many treatments a dog needs, this is dependent on the type of laser as well as the condition or diseases and whether it’s chronic or acute. The average amount of treatments is about two to three times a week for two to three weeks and then this reduces depending on the outcome. Conditions that are both acute and painful likely undergo more frequent treatments. If a dog has just had surgery, they might have their first treatment before the dog has woken up.

      Orthopedic Bed

      german shepherd on an orthopedic bed
      Photo Credit: Fur Haven

      An orthopedic bed can make all the difference for a dog who is experiencing joint pain. The orthopedic foam material helps regulate temperature to keep your dog warm, in return decreasing joint pain thanks to the heat. The foam helps to retain heat to relax your dog’s muscles and alleviate inflammation in the joints. 

      Since an orthopedic bed tends to be firmer and a little stiffer than a traditional dog bed, it makes it easier for your arthritic dog to stand up after laying down. Having something for your dog to stand up on that also provides them support is helpful. A traditional bed that is softer, allows them to sink in without pushing them upwards. 

      Massage Therapy

      yellow lab getting a massage

      A massage can be helpful to a dog experiencing joint pain. Massaging your dog’s muscles near the affected painful joints can bring immediate relief. The stimulation improves blood flow to tissues including the affected joints.  Short sessions with gentle strokes or kneading are the most safe and effective way to massage your dog. Be sure to refrain from directly massaging the joints, as this could lead to even more discomfort and pain. 

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      How to Prevent Arthritis In Dogs

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        What is Arthritis in Dogs?

        Arthritis (also known as Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease) is a common condition for aging dogs but also not unheard of for younger dogs. At any given moment, it affects about a quarter of a million canines globally. It is a progressive, chronic joint disorder characterized by joint cartilage deterioration, joint capsule thickness, and the formation of the new bone surrounding the joint (osteophytosis), all of which contribute to pain and limb impairment. 

        What Causes Arthritis in Dogs?

        senior dog with arthritis laying in the grass

        To better prevent arthritis in dogs, it’s important to understand what actually causes it and to start there. Arthritis in dogs is caused mostly by developing orthopedic illnesses such as cranial cruciate ligament disease, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, OCD, and patella (knee cap) dislocation. Arthritis occurs in a tiny percentage of dogs for no obvious cause and is connected to heredity and age. Arthritis  can also be caused by a variety of factors, including:

        • Breeds that are large or giant
        • Genetics
        • Age
        • Athletic activities that cause repetitive stress
        • Prior hip or elbow dysplasia diagnosis
        • Infections that cause joint pain, such as Lyme Disease
        • Inadequate nutrition
        • Fractures and ligament rips are examples of injuries

         

        Why is Early Awareness of Arthritis Important?

        Arthritis is difficult to identify in its early stages, despite the fact that it is common and painful. Treatment options often focus on relieving pain and delaying the disease’s progression. The first and most crucial step to prevent arthritis in dogs is just being aware of its prevalence and keeping joint health and prospective joint issues at the forefront of one’s thoughts. 

        How Can You Prevent Arthritis in Dogs?

        Early intervention for your dog’s joints, muscles, and hips is recommended. Early management may assist to decrease the progression of degenerative arthritis. In the first half of your dog’s life, make sure he gets the necessary nutrition and gets enough of activity, which will keep his body healthy and help him maintain a healthy weight. Keep reading to learn more about the ways to try and prevent arthritis in your dog:

        Weight Management 

        Obesity is one of the top ways that causes arthritis in dogs and keeping dogs a healthy weight throughout their life can delay or halt the progression of arthritis. Dogs who are already prone to arthritis such as their breed, size or other genetic defects would greatly benefit from being kept at a healthy weight. If you’re not sure what size your dog is supposed to be, you can check the AKC breed size chart (remember: not all dogs of the same breed are the same, their weight can still vary). If you are worried that your dog is overweight, you can put them on a diet dog food and exercise regimen which your veterinarian can help regulate.

        overweight dog with arthritis

        Supplements

        Dogs don’t need to be showing joint pain or problems to be put on joint supplements. If you’re not sure what kind of supplement would be helpful, here’s a bit of information on the most common types of supplements for dogs to help with joint pain and arthritis:

        Glucosamine

        The most frequent sort of supplement for joint issues in dogs is glucosamine. It is a naturally occurring substance in both human and animal bodies, however the supplement aids in cartilage health maintenance. It alleviates pain and stiffness in arthritic joints by lowering inflammation, preventing cartilage loss, and enhancing cartilage regeneration.

        Chondroitin

        Chondroitin, which is frequently combined with glucosamine, increases water retention and suppleness in cartilage. It can be taken on its own, with the same dose as glucosamine.

        Green Lipped Mussel

        Green Lipped Mussel (GLM) is a supplement derived from a New Zealand mussel. There isn’t much information about GLM, although it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory and joint-protective qualities.

        Hyaluronic Acid

        Hyaluronic Acid is a kind of sugar. It is a key component of synovial fluid, which serves to maintain joint viscosity, lubrication, and stress absorption in joints.

        Vitamins C and E

        Antioxidant vitamins C and E help dogs move about more readily by destroying free radicals.

        Acetylated Glucosamine

        Acetylated glucosamine can help with joint structure and function.

        Manganese

        Manganese is an essential nutrient because it is involved in a variety of chemical processes in the body, including bone formation. Manganese is required in joints to preserve bone, cartilage, and collagen. Manganese is a component of cartilage that is required for chondrocyte survival.

        The Correct Exercise

        Make sure your dog is active and receives lots of exercise to help prevent arthritis in dogs. Too much exercise can also be just as dangerous as it can expose them to overexertion damage. It is critical not to over-exercise your dog or expose them to overexertion damage. “Leaping” activities that involve dogs lepaing into the air like throwing frisbees up high for dogs to jump up and catch can create uneven weight loads and distribution on their joints. Examples of exercise that don’t put strain on the joints include water-based exercises like swimming and hydrotherapy. Nonetheless, appropriate activity and exercise promotes a healthy weight and good muscular growth to support joints. Both a healthy weight and muscle mass in your dog help to prevent joint degradation, which can lead to arthritis. Make certain that your dog does not strain his joints or injure himself when exercising.

        Have Regular Vet Visits

        Dogs who are more likely to develop arthritis should have their joints checked regularly by your primary care veterinarian. You can ask your vet to x-ray your dog at around 2 years old to see if there any indications of arthritis developing. Request x-rays of your dog’s spine, hips, and stifles whenever your pet is sedated for a treatment later in life, such as a dental cleaning, so you can keep track of their improvement.

        The goal of getting the hips x-rayed at two years is to see if hip dysplasia has developed. In general, if a dog is above the age of two and has not been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, they are unlikely to develop it. However, hip dysplasia can develop later in life as a result of hereditary causes, severe injury, a lack of muscular strength, or overloading the joint with too much weight. Keeping track of your dog’s baseline using x-rays allows you to watch their progress and make any necessary changes to supplements, nutrition, or other factors to aid your dog.

         

        Overall, prevention is a key factor in helping your dog with arthritis. Many dogs are predisposed but preventative measures can help slow the progression or even halt it. If you are concerned that your dog may have arthritis, please visit your primary care veterinarian or find an orthopedic veterinary specialist near you.

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        How To Help My Dog With Canine Osteoarthritis?

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          What is Canine Osteoarthritis? 

          To better help canine osteoarthritis, it’s important to understand exactly what it is. Canine Osteoarthritis affects both dogs and humans alike and is the most common form of arthritis affecting nearly a quarter of a million dogs worldwide at any given time. It is a progressive, chronic joint condition marked by the weakening of joint cartilage, thickening of the joint capsule, and the forming of new bone around the joint (osteophytosis), both of which contribute to pain and limb dysfunction. 

          What Causes Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

          The majority of canine Osteoarthritis in dogs is caused by developmental orthopedic diseases including cranial cruciate ligament disease, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, OCD, and patella (knee cap) dislocation. In a small percentage of dogs, OA develops for no apparent reason and is linked to genetics and age. There are multiple possible causes of canine Osteoarthritis in dogs:

          • Large or giant breeds
          • Genetics
          • Obesity
          • Age, usually middle-age to senior dogs
          • Repetitive stress from athletic activities 
          • Poor conformation
          • Prior diagnosis of hip or elbow dysplasia 
          • Infections that affect the joints, such as Lyme Disease
          • Improper nutrition
          • Injuries such as fractures or ligament tears 

          What are the Signs of Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

          Osteoarthritis can often be undetectable until it becomes severe. It’s important to know what to look for in osteoarthritis, especially if your dog is prone to it. This includes overweight dogs and elderly dogs. Signs of osteoarthritis in dogs include:

          • Irritability
          • Lethargy
          • Stiffness, lameness, or limping
          • Reluctance or difficulty standing 
          • Weight gain
          • Pain when touched
          • incontinence.

          Your vet should be contacted if you think your dog is suffering from osteoarthritis to start the next steps.

          What are the Stages of Osteoarthritis?

          Osteoarthritis presents itself in four different stages. 

          Stage 1: The affected dog exhibits early symptoms which may be difficult to recognize. They are most prevalent in puppies who are still developing or young adults, and are often intermittent, lasting only a few seconds or minutes. 

          Stage 2: The affected dog continues to have intermittent symptoms which are termed the initial flare-ups.These warnings are sporadic, lasting only a few hours, and are simple for owners to reason and ignore. This stage is most common in puppies and young adult dogs.

          Stage 3: The third stage consists of performance impairment in the affected dog. It’s easier for the owner to recognize this stage, which is marked by exercise intolerance and increasing loss of capacity to execute activities of daily living. This is a common stage in the development of adult dogs. 

          Stage 4: The affected dog experiences significant loss of mobility, strength, and fitness. This state is the most difficult stage for the parent of the affected dog.

          Dogs can be in any of these stages, even if they are young or elderly. Osteoarthritis in dogs is often detected in the third or fourth stage. Ideally, veterinary teams should be aware of and able to detect osteoarthritis symptoms in the early stages of the disease.

          Is Osteoarthritis in Dogs Treatable?

          Unfortunately, the damage caused by OA is irreversible but treatment plans help reduce pain and improve quality of life. Certain treatments can be done at home such as helping your dog lose weight if they are overweight and keeping up with low impact exercises such as short walks. 

          Physical Therapy

          Your veterinarian may suggest regular appointments with a rehabilitation center or specialist. Acupuncture, hydrotherapy, chiropractic, laser therapy, regenerative medicine, and medicinal massage are other alternative treatments that require seeing a specialist but luckily these options have become more common and are more available in most areas!

          Yellow Labrador in a hydrotherapy machine at physical therapy

          Supplements

          On top of the treatment plan given by your vet, certain supplements may assist in the lessening of pain in your dogs. If your dog is predisposed to arthritis such as their breed or weight, your vet may suggest starting supplements before the onset of canine Osteoarthritis. Here are the top type of supplements to look for:

          • Glucosamine is the most common type of supplement for joint problems in dogs. It’s a naturally occurring compound in both human and animal bodies but the supplement helps keep up with cartilage health. It reduces pain and stiffness in arthritic joints by reducing inflammation, inhibiting cartilage loss, and improving cartilage repair.
            • Chondroitin is often given in combination with glucosamine and promotes water retention and elasticity in cartilage. It can be given by itself in which the dosing is the same as glucosamine. 
            • Green Lipped Mussel (GLM) is a supplement taken from a mussel native to New Zealand. There isn’t too much information on GLM but omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory and joint-protecting properties, are found in it. 
            • Hyaluronic Acid is a kind of sugar. It is a major component of synovial fluid, which helps to maintain joint viscosity, maintain joint lubrication, and absorb stress in joints. 
            • Antioxidant vitamins C and E destroy free radicals, they help dogs move around more easily! 
            • Glucosamine Acetylated can be for good joint structure and function.
            • Manganese is a vital nutrient, manganese is involved in various chemical reactions in the body, including the production of bones. To maintain bone and cartilage as well as collagen, manganese is essential in joints. Manganese is an essential component of cartilage and is essential for chondrocyte survival.

          Nutrition

          Nutrition has a role in controlling joint disease, just as it does with many other diseases. Nutrients can influence some of the underlying processes in arthritis. These include regulation of inflammation and cartilage repair, as well as antioxidant protection. A healthy diet can minimize or eliminate the need for traditional medicines, some of which have harmful side effects. Certain nutrients, whether supplied independently or as part of a diet focused on controlling osteoarthritis, must be understood by veterinary nurses.

          Yellow lab receiving a supplement

          CBD

          Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, has become quite the thing for helping humans and pets alike with different ailments including anxiety and pain. A study that was published in the journal PAIN looked at whether various doses and formulations of CBD could benefit dogs with osteoarthritis, and the findings indicated that it could. The researchers at Bayer School of Medicine worked with the CBD brand Medterra on a 4 week study that included 20 large dogs diagnosed with osteoarthritis. The group of dogs who took higher doses of CBD or used CBD in a liposomal formulation saw significant improvement in their mobility and quality of life. The mobility and quality of life of the dogs who received larger doses of CBD or CBD in a liposomal formulation improved significantly.

          Is Osteoarthritis in Dogs Preventable?

          Short answer: yes. Long answer: Because canine osteoarthritis cannot be treated entirely, prevention and early intervention are essential. Osteoarthritis may be prevented by helping your dog maintain a healthy weight from the time he is a puppy. Choose a breeder who checks both parent dogs for developing orthopedic issues like hip dysplasia if you decide to obtain a puppy through that route.

          We do not make any health claims about CBD products. Before taking any CBD product, we do advise that you consult with your physician or medical doctor.
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