Pain and Stiffness

Rossi is a beautiful German Shepherd Dog. She came with sudden inability to wag her tail, preferring to hold it down between her back legs. She had been quiet too, not interacting as much or wanting to play. In addition, her lovely owner had, for quite some time, noticed that she had difficulty rising from rest, had reduced tolerance to exercise and had been a little more sullen than previously.

We examined Rossi. Whenever we conduct a consultation, we will often do a full clinical examination to check out major organ systems and look for obvious problems, that may or may not be related to the reasons why you came in. As far as her tail was concerned, we noticed swelling towards the top of the tail and it was painful to palpate (feel) the area of the swelling. Despite the fact that she didn’t want to move her tail, she could still feel it, all the way to the tip, and there was muscle tone throughout its length, so we thought the nerve supply to the tail and circulation must be OK.

We examined Rossi’s limbs and their various joints. It was clear that she resented manipulation and extension of her hip joints.

Rossi was booked in for anaesthesia and X-rays. When she was asleep we were able to examine her tail and joints much more thoroughly. We took images of multiple joints, her lower spine and her tail.

The Image of the hips, in a normal dog, would show very neat round balls at the head of the femurs fitting neatly and snuggly into the round sockets on the pelvis. With Rossi the sockets (acetabulae) are shallow, with wide lips at the edges. The necks of the femurs are thickened and the balls are remodelled and mishaped. There are also changes around the joints that we see with arthritis.

Rossi has ‘hip dysplasia’, where the normal ball and socket joints didn’t develop properly. This affects her gait, and, as time progresses, the joints remodel, cartilage on the bone surfaces becomes damaged, and the cartilage and joint capsule become inflammed and painful. This is osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease.

Arthritis affects many dogs and cats, some quite early in life, and the consequences include pain, unhappiness, reduced willingness to exercise, reduced ability at exercise, stiffness and upset owners – who want their pets to be happy, and who want to enjoy their time with them.

Arthritis is also underdiagnosed – many people think that reduced activity is just a consequence of aging, and don’t necessarily think their pets’ negative demeanour is because of pain.

The good news is that there is a great deal we can do for arthritis, focussing on:

  • pain management (we have a range of medications to help)
  • exercise regime
  • weight
  • diet
  • supplements (many are helpful, others less so)
  • mobility aids (ramps etc)
  • hydrotherapy (with some, not all cases)
  • physiotherapy (where appropriate)

If you are unsure whether your pet is in pain, for whatever reason, contact us to make an appointment, and we will try to help. You can read more about arthritis and pain on our website.

Rossi also had a painful tail. The X-ray showed soft tissue swelling surrounding two of the vertebrae in Rossi’s tail. We couldn’t see any evidence of fracture, bites or other injury and wondered if she had perhaps caught it and bruised the muscles and deeper tissues. With appropriate anti-inflammatory pain relief and time, the tail regained normal function.

Rossi, on treatment for her hips, is back to being a lively happy soul, and we are always pleased to see her when she comes for her regular check ups.