Degenerative Joint Disease & Physical Therapy

By Colleen Crozier, DVM


“Rex seems to be slowing down. He doesn’t want to go on long walks anymore.”

“Fiona doesn’t jump up on the couch anymore.”

“Max has a hard time getting up after he’s been laying down.”


These are a few examples of common conversations that veterinarians have with their clients. As our pets
get older they (just like humans) can develop arthritis in their joints. In veterinary terms we call this osteoarthritis (OA) and/or degenerative joint disease (DJD). While we typically see OA/DJD in older animals, younger animals can certainly develop these diseases as well, either due to confirmation abnormalities (ex. hip dysplasia), injuries (ex. cruciate tears), and/ or trauma (ex. excessive wear on joints due to high impact sports). Common signs of OA/DJD include lameness, difficulty going up/ down stairs, decreased activity, unwilling to play/jump, stiffness, scraping toes while walking and sometimes vocalizations. All of these signs are caused by pain due to the disease which further results in stiffening of joints, muscle spasms, and decreased muscle mass in the affected limbs.

So what’s the good news? The good news is that there are lots of options for treating and managing the pain caused by OA/DJD. There are lots of medication options these days for treatment of OA/DJD that are safe and effective including anti-inflammatories, pain medications, joint supplements, and prescription diets. Along with medications, physical therapy and rehabilitation are a great way to improve our pets’ quality of life. Physical therapy and rehabilitation help to increase strength and flexibility that will lead to increased use of the affected leg from pain relief. Your veterinarian will measure your pet’s muscle mass and flexibility prior to starting physical therapy to help gauge improvement.

Physical therapy is especially important in our pets that are recovering from orthopedic surgery and injuries to their legs. The great news about physical therapy is that once a veterinarian shows you what your pet needs, you can do a lot of it at home! Examples of physical therapy include laser therapy, acupuncture, passive range of motion exercises, cavaletti poles, underwater treadmill/swimming, controlled leash walking, slow and controlled climbing stairs/hills/curbs, massage, and hot/cold compresses. Every pet has different physical capabilities that will determine the correct combination of physical therapy. Once an appropriate rehabilitation program is established, you will see your pet feeling more energetic again.


Canine Influenza

By Christine Clodfelter, DVM

Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) has actually been around since 2004, but this past May, outbreaks originating at dog shows in Perry, GA and DeLand, FL spread the latest strain of canine flu through the Southeast into North Carolina. Social media sites were ablaze and panicked calls from conscientious owners poured into veterinary offices across our state.

What is it?
CIV is caused by two strains of Type A influenza viruses known as H3N8 and H3N2. We distinguish different strains of influenza A viruses based on two features found on the outer surface of the virus. This is kind of like telling one car from another based on their headlights or door styles. One of these features is a protein called a hemagglutinin, the H. This protein is very important because it determines how the virus attaches to the cells in a dog’s respiratory tract to start the infection. Antibodies made by the dog’s immune system can bind to this site and help stop the virus from getting into the dog’s cells. The other feature is a neuraminidase, the N, which is an enzyme that the virus uses to get out of the dog’s respiratory cell so it can spread.

Where did it come from?
The older H3N8 virus was first detected in Florida’s racing greyhounds in 2004. Mutations in an influenza virus found in horses allowed it to be transmitted to dogs, and most importantly, from dog to dog. It has now spread to almost every state in the country. The newer H3N2 strain of canine influenza originated in birds before mutating to be able to infect dogs. In March of 2015, it made its U.S. debut in a dramatic outbreak of canine respiratory disease in the Chicago area. It took only five months for the H3N2 virus to spread to 23 states. This is the strain responsible for the Spring 2017 outbreak, and was also identified as the cause of respiratory disease in a group of Indiana shelter cats in 2016.

Key Features
In both strains, the most common symptom is a cough that lasts 10-21 days even with antibiotics and cough suppressants. Other signs may include a runny, snotty nose, runny eyes, sneezing, fever, lethargy, and a lack of appetite.

CIV is transmitted during coughing, sneezing, or barking that disperse droplets into the environment. This disease is extremely contagious, with almost all exposed dogs becoming infected. About 80% of infected dogs will show signs of the disease. The other 20%, that do not appear ill, still shed the virus and can infect other dogs unbeknownst to their owners.

The incubation period can vary from one to eight days after infection depending on the strain. Unfortunately, dogs are most contagious during this time.

As with human influenza, most dogs recover within two-three weeks with only supportive care and TLC. However, in weak or otherwise compromised dogs, the damage done by the influenza virus can allow a secondary bacterial infection to take hold, resulting in a life threatening pneumonia.

Since this disease is so contagious, suspected patients may be asked to wait in their cars to be evaluated so as not to expose the entire hospital. Any dog suspected of being infected should be isolated for four weeks. The virus can typically live in the environment for two days, but it can easily be killed with most common disinfectants which should be used regularly to clean any facility where dogs are kept. Both strains of CIV presently circulating are in the H3 hemagglutinin family. While they are actually 85% similar, key differences mean that older vaccines targeting only the H3N8 strain are not effective enough to offer good protection against the newer H3N2 strain. Luckily, there is a bivalent vaccine that gives protection against both strains. It is important for owners to be aware that vaccination will decrease, but not eliminate, the risk that their dog will contract the virus if exposed. While vaccination can not completely eliminate the chance of infection, it can lessen the severity and length of the illness.

Dogs considered at risk for CIV are social dogs who frequently mingle with others and would benefit from the vaccine. Pets who stay in their own well fenced yards and never contact other dogs, are considered low risk.

Speak with your veterinarian to access your dog’s risk and make a prevention plan that best suits your dog’s lifestyle.

Ask the Vet columns can be downloaded by clicking on any of the links below:

February 2017 - Nutrition and Your Pet

February 2017 - Lyme Disease

January 2017 - Anxiety in Dogs

January 2017 - Lumps, Masses and Bumps, Oh My!

December 2016 - Pet Insurance Myths Debunked!

November 2016 - The Litterbox

November 2016 - The Coughing Dog

October 2016 - Puppy Love, Kitten Love

October 2016 - What's the Itch?

September 2016 - The Urban Chicken

September 2016 - Feline Heartworm

August 2016 - Obesity in Dogs

August 2016 - Benefits of Surgical CO2 Laser in Veterinary Dermatology

July 2016 - Ferret Adrenal Gland Disease

July 2016 - Help for the Healers

June 2016 - SENIOR PETS

June 2016 - Top 5 Things You Don't Want to Tell Your Vet (but Should!)

May 2016 - PHYSICAL REHABILITATION: Let's Keep Your Pet Moving

May 2016 - Summer! What a Wonderful Time of Year, But Be Aware of the Hazards

April 2016 - Spring Brings "Tick Season"!

April 2016 - VETERINARY HOSPICE: Caring Beyond a Cure

March 2016 - What Does the Term 'Regenerative Medicine' mean?

March 2016 - Dental Disease: The good, the bad and the preventable...

February 2016 - Chronic Inflammation

February 2016 - Canine GI Upset

January 2016 - Feline Inappropriate Urination

January 2016 - Arthritis in Veterinary Medicine

December 2015 - Make the Holidays Happy, Not Hazardous!

December 2015 - Ear Health: What's Going on in There?

November 2015 - Hip Dysplasia, PennHip Testing and the Eradication of Hip Dysplasia

November 2015 - Feline Cardiac Disease

October 2015 - What's Up With My Pet's Bottom?

October 2015 - Why Every Pet Needs a Veterinarian

September 2015 - Even Our House Pets Can Pick Up Intestinal Parasites

September 2015 - "MY CAT ATE WHAT?!?!?

August 2015 - Heat Stroke

August 2015 - Bite Wounds - Dogs, Cats & Snakes. . .Oh My!

July 2015 - Therapeutic Laser for Your Pet

July 2015 - Would You Like an All Natural Way to Manage Your Pet's Allergies?

June 2015 - The Skin-ny on Your Pet's Skin

June 2015 - Complementary & Alternative Therapy for Pets

May 2015 - The Importance of Blood Work!

May 2015 - Ticks and Your Pet

April 2015 - Benefits of "At Home" Veterinary Care
March 2015 - The Newest Techniques for Managing Musculoskeletal Diseases

March 2015 - Anticipatory Grief

February 2015 - Canine GI Upset - When to Seek Medical Attention

February 2015 - The Shocking Truth. . .Normal, Healthy Cats Do Not Vomit

January 2015 - Preventive Care: Changing Roles and Setting Goals

January 2015 - Laparoscopic Surgery in Veterinary Medicine

December 2014 - Obesity in Dogs

December 2014 - Dental Do's & Dont's for the Holidays

November 2014 - Correcting Your Cat's Litterbox Habits

November 2014 - PARVO: A Deadly Disease Everyone Needs to Know About

October 2014 - Old Age is Not a Disease

October 2014 - Osteoarthritis

September 2014 - Reparing CCL Tears with Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
September 2014 - Feline Asthma
August 2014 - Ticks! You, Your Pet and Ticks - What You Need to Know
August 2014 - Rabbit Nutrition
July 2014 - Nutrition Basics: What Does a Pet Food Label Mean?
July 2014 - Pet Insurance Myths Debunked!
June 2014 Summertime. . .let's help make the living easy
June 2014 - Investigating Wet Floors
May 2014 - Is It 'Just" Old Age?
May 2014 - Benefits of "At Home" Veterinary Care
April 2014 - The Newest Techniques for Managing Musculoskeletal Diseases

April 2014 - Why Does My Dog or Cat Lick, Chew, Scratch or Pull Hair Out???

March 2014 - Have fun outside. . .the safe way

March 2014 - The Value of Loving Your Pet Through Preventative Care

February 2014 - Laser Therapy for Your Pet
February 2014 - Management of Aging Companion Animals

January 2014 - Evaluating Your Pet's Quality of Life: How will I know it's the right time to say goodbye?

December 2013 - Diarrhea in Cats Needs Early Treatment

November 2013 - Heartworm Disease:  Prevention is the Key!

October 2013 - Planning for a New Puppy

September 2013 - Hypertension in Cats

August 2013 - Your Aging Pet and the Importance of Geriatric Screening

July 2013 - Hot Topics Discussed By Pet Owners in the Veterinary ER

June 2013 - Leptospirosis

May 2013 - Heat Stroke in Dogs

April 2013 - Keeping Pets Healthy AND Saving Money

March 2013 - Caring for Nontraditional Pets

February 2013 - Ultrasound and Its Use in Veterinary Medicine

January 2013 - Feline Dental Health

December 2012 - Animal Hospice

November 2012 - Relieving Feline Stress

October 2012 - What are Some Common Products That can Poison Your Dog or Cat?

September 2012 - Attack of the FLEAS!!!

August 2012 - Chronic Kidney Disease

June 2012 - How Important is Good Dental Health?

May 2012 - Wildlife in Trouble

April 2012 - Why All the Fuss About Bloodwork?

March 2012 - Itchy Pets - Diagnosing & Treating

February 2012 - Food Allergies in Dogs & Cats

January 2012 - Adult Stem Cell & PRP Therapy - the Newest Treatments for Arthritis

December 2011 - Holiday Hazards & Travel Tips

November 2011 - Feline Arthritis Pain

October 2011 - Feline Obesity

September 2011 - What is the Proper Vaccination Protocol for My Pet?

August 2011 - Fleas & Ticks

July 2011 - Pet Insurance

June 2011 - Caring for Exotic Pets

May 2011 - Animal Chiropractic Care

April 2011 - Veterinary Acupuncture

March 2011 - Seizures in Dogs

February 2011 - February is National Pet Dental Month

January 2011 - What Should I Watch for as My Cat Gets Older?

December 2010 - Diabetes in Cats

November 2010 - Canine Influenza

October 2010 - Bringing Home a New Cat

September 2010 - Your questions answered by Dr. Brooke Schwabenton, DVM

August 2010 - Caring for your pet's teeth