Arthritis is commonly found in senior dogs and cats which leads many pet owners to assume their pet has arthritis when they begin to observe signs of mobility issues. It is important to visit your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis as there are a number of serious health issues that also cause joint pain and mobility problems for animals.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs and cats. The condition causes long term deterioration of joints and involves many tissues including cartilage, bone under the cartilage, joint capsule and fluid in the joint.
Stiffness and/or limping is the most common sign of arthritis in dogs however, cats usually simply become less active. They may also hide or develop behavioral changes, such as irritability, decreased grooming, or difficulty using the litter box.
As pet parents there are ways we can help improve the comfort level, quality of life, and ability to get around of our beloved pets.
Body weight plays a large role in the development and or advancement of arthritis. Pets who are overweight suffer from
problems due to the extra weight they carry which causes more stress on their joints. If your dog or cat is overweight talk with your veterinarian for suggestions on what to feed your pet as well as ways to bring their weight under control.
Moderate exercise is important to keep your pet fit, active and enjoying a good quality of life. Initially exercise may need to be decreased to short walks on a leash but, in the long term, it is very important to gradually increase exercise. There are no set rules for how much exercise a pet with arthritis should have as all animals are different. Exercise levels need to be tailored to the individual animal. Excessive exercise must be avoided since this can cause pain to increase.
Do you have slippery surfaces in your home like hardwood floors? Gaining traction and keeping it can be difficult for a pet in pain and having a hard time getting around. No-slip booties for your cat or dog helps them get a grip and allows them more security.
Regular nail trims help with mobility problems. You can schedule an appointment with grooming to have your pet’s nails trimmed for $12 or in the clinic for $16.
Does your dog or cat have difficulty navigating stairs? A gradual pet ramp could help alleviate this problem. And if your dog or cat are welcome on your bed or other furniture and has difficulty managing getting up or down you can invest in pet steps.
A well cushioned and comfortable bed is important not only for your pet’s comfort but it will be easier for him to get up and down on a supportive surface. An orthopedic or memory foam bed works well.
Keep your pet’s environment a comfortable temperature, neither too hot nor too cold.
There are supplements and prescription joint/mobility diets available. Talk with your veterinarian for his/her recommendations.
Massage and other alternative treatments may be helpful.
Pain management – ALWAYS talk to your veterinarian first. NEVER give your pet human pain medication, even aspirin or “doggie” aspirin. NEVER give another pet’s prescription pain medicine unless explicitly told to do so by your vet. Many well intentioned pet owners have inadvertently injured or complicated their pet’s care by administering over the counter or prescription human medication.
Treatment for pets with arthritis is not a one size fits all. It is crucial that pet parents seek veterinary care in order to find the best treatment plan for their pet to ensure their health and safety. Many pets live long and comfortable lives but it is important to seek treatment early.