Veterinarians commonly see pets suffering from a variety of skeletal problems including back (disk) disease, arthritis, cruciate ligament injury, and hip and elbow dysplasia. While conventional therapies such as NSAID medications (Rimadyl, Metacam, etc.) and steroids have their place in helping these pets, there are many better choices for long term pain and inflammation relief. Here are some of the many therapies we use in our practice to help pets suffering from these common disorders.
1.Cold Laser Therapy-Cold laser therapy involves the application of a painless laser to your pet’s arthritic joints or sore back. Similar to acupuncture without the needles, regular cold laser therapy treatments have helped many of my patients live normal lives and avoid surgery (especially those with disk disease of the back and cruciate ligament injuries involving the knees.)
2.Homeopathics-Various homeopathic remedies have shown benefit in relieving pain and inflammation in pets. Specifically, recent studies showed a homeopathic treatment equally effective to the nonsteroidal medication Rimadyl in helping dogs with arthritis.
3.Hyaluronic Acid-While many people are familiar with glucosamine and chondroitin as joint supplements, hyaluronic acid (HA) and tart cherry are quickly becoming a favorite joint supplement, especially for those pets suffering from severe arthritis that do not respond to glucosamine and chondroitin.
4. Herbs-Pets as well as people can benefit from anti-inflammatory herbs including boswellia and white willow bark among others.
5. Fish oil-While fish oil is recommended for a number of inflammatory conditions, don’t forget its value for helping pets with musculoskeletal problems either. Combining fish oil with other therapies will not only help inflamed joints will make the pet healthier as well!
Finally, keep the following points in mind when it comes to dealing with arthritis in pets. The MOST important treatment for arthritis in pets is to make sure they maintain a normal weight. Extra weight carried on damaged joints not only further damages the joints but causes more inflammation in them as well. And even though we’ve been discussing musculoskeletal problems in dogs, don’t forget that even cats get these same problems including arthritis, often as frequently as dogs! Older cats that seem a bit stiff, have urinary or fecal accidents in the household, become cranky if you pet them, and which seem to “act old” often are often found to suffer from arthritis.
While many of the nonsteroidal medications we use in arthritic dogs are not safe to use in cats, fortunately our natural therapies are as helpful in our feline patients as they are in dogs. For more information on helping pets with his musculoskeletal problems, check out the latest information on natural therapies in my new book The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Arthritis in Dogs & Cats (New World Library, 2011.)
FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disorder, previously called FUS or feline urological syndrome,) is the most common urinary tract disorder in cats. While usually not life-threatening (except in male cats which can easily become obstructed or “blocked,”) FLUTD can become the source of chronic pain and irritation and increase the cost of pet ownership for owners of affected cats. This article will discuss what you need to know about this common feline problem.
The typical cat with FLUTD begins urinating outside of its litter box. In many cases, the rear-end is bloody due to damage of the inner mucosal bladder lining by the crystalline debris which forms in cats infected with FLUTD. Due to their shorter urethras, male cats typically become obstructed and may not be able to urinate at all, or only drip a few drops of blood or blood tinged urine. Many owners mistakenly believe that an obstructed cat trying to use a litter box is constipated. Yet, true constipation rarely occurs in cats, while FLUTD occurs quite commonly. Any cat which is having difficulty urinating should be examined on an emergency basis as prompt therapy to relieve the urinary tract obstruction is necessary to relieve pain and prevent bladder rupture and or kidney failure.
Diagnosis is fairly easy. Generally speaking, laboratory testing such as blood testing, urinalysis, and radiographs, while helpful, are not usually necessary to make the diagnosis. The owner’s history, along with the cat’s clinical signs and results of a physical examination will usually allow for a diagnosis of FLUTD. Pets with chronic problems should have full diagnostic evaluations including abdominal radiographs as well as an ultrasound examination of the urinary system to look for other problems such as bladder stones or tumors.
Because the cause of FLUTD has never been identified, there is no specific treatment for cats afflicted with FLUTD.
Conventional doctors usually treat cats with FLUTD with antibiotics. While antibiotics may be helpful for cats with particularly bloody urine or in those with obstructive disease who require urinary catheterization, in general they have been shown to be ineffective in treating FLUTD. This is likely due to the fact that cats, unlike dogs and people, rarely have bacterial infections as a cause of their FLUTD. Even though antibiotics are generally ineffective in cats with FLUTD, cats treated with antibiotics typically improve within a few days (but so do cats that are not treated with antibiotics.)
Cats with obstructive disease must have their bladders catheterized in order to relieve their obstructions and allow decompression of their distended bladders. Additionally, fluid therapy is necessary to rehydrate the cats and allow for adequate flushing of their urinary tracts. In the most severe cases, surgery may be needed to prevent recurrences of the obstruction (note that cats that have this surgery, called a perineal urethrostomy, will still develop non-obstructive FLUTD unless natural therapies are instituted to prevent further irritation of the bladder.)
Antidepressant medications such as amitriptyline, while not proven to be effective in research studies, may or may not be clinically effective in some cats that experience FLUTD as a result of anxiety.
Natural therapies have proven to be quite effective in many cats with FLUTD, especially those with chronic disease that do not adequately respond to conventional therapies.
Glucosamine supplements, typically used for cats with arthritis, may be helpful in repairing damage to the inner mucosal lining of the bladder.
Herbs such as marshmallow and uva ursi, commonly used to treat patients with disorders of the urinary system, may help soothe the inflamed bladder and urethra and aid in flushing crystals and mucus out of the urinary tract.
Homeopathic remedies such as nux vomica and cantharis have shown great effectiveness in treating cats with FLUTD. Easy to administer, especially in liquid form, I routinely use homeopathy as part of my therapy for cats with FLUTD. In many cases of chronic disease, regular use of homeopathics keep the cats in remission and prevent further recurrences of their FLUTD.
Medicated diet that aim to reduce the pH of the cat’s urine and to reduce crystal formation may be helpful in selected cases. However, these diets are not typically considered to be natural or holistic and are best avoided in most cats.
While research has not shown a difference in cats fed wet versus dry food, holistic veterinarians routinely observe a better response in cats with FLUTD that are fed exclusively wet diets (canned, raw, or cooked.) Therefore, I routinely recommend that my cats with FLUTD be fed wet food rather than dry food.
FLUTD is the most common urinary tract disorder in our feline patients. While a definitive cause still remains elusive, and while conventional therapies such as antibiotics really have no place as part of the treatment for most cats with FLUTD, thankfully this is one condition that responds quite well in most cases to treatment with natural therapies and the proper diet.