7 Things You Can Do for a Pet with Arthritis
Arthritis is as common in pets as it is in people. Considering that our furry friends are part of the family, we want to do everything we can to make them happy and pain-free as they age! But how do we go about it?
What is arthritis?
Put simply, “arthritis” is inflammation of any joint. Joints are where two or more bones meet – think shoulder, elbow, knee or ankle. These joints are what we call synovial structures – several important molecules are naturally created by the body to lubricate the surfaces so that bones move easily and don’t scrape against each other. As we get older, the lubrication of these joints reduces, leading to bone-on-bone contact. This leads to inflammation, and inflammation equals pain!
What causes arthritis?
Most commonly, it’s natural wear-and-tear that occurs with aging. Occasionally, a previous ligament or tendon injury will mean that arthritis develops faster due to instability in the joint. We also know that a few other factors influence arthritis – diet, exercise, obesity and possibly even breed!
What does arthritis look like?
Unfortunately, our pets can’t tell us that they are sore, which makes knowing the signs of arthritis particularly important. Early detection means earlier treatment! Some common signs include:
- Slowing down on walks
- Reluctance to go up or down stairs
- Reluctance to jump into the car
- Stiffness after exercise
- Reluctance to exercise in the colder months
- Occasionally pain when the sore area is touched
What can be done about arthritis?
- Natural joint supplements – there is more and more research coming out about the benefits of these. The most commonly available ones include glucosamine, fish oil tablets, and rose-hip. Most of these can be bought online or over the counter at pet stores and vets but consult your vet to see if it’s right for your pet!
- Injections – veterinarians will often recommend a course of injections of a natural medication called “pentosane polysulphate”. Remember how we said that the joint becomes less lubricated with age? Well, this injection improves joint lubrication, making your pet more comfortable, generally after just one month!
- Anti-inflammatories – think of these as doggy Nurofen. While they won’t reverse the arthritis that’s already there, they are great for reducing the pain associated with arthritis! Though generally very safe, they can have side effects and can only be a prescribed by a veterinarian.
Is there anything I can do at home?
Absolutely! We’ve listed some easy things here:
- Soft bedding – it’s much more comfortable for an old, stiff dog to sleep on a cosy bed than a hard floor! Please see our What is the best dog bed article?
- Weight loss – keeping your pet lean reduces the amount of force on joints. Low fat foods such as Hills Weight Loss Diet are one option and reducing the amount of food slowly is another. Chat to your vet to find out your pet’s ideal weight, and how to get there!
- Ramps – instead of jumping into the car or climbing stairs, pets with arthritis find it much easier to go up slowly-inclining flat surfaces! Have a look at some options here:
1. Chasing Tails Dog Ramp for Bed - Pet Ramp for Small/Large Dogs
2. Pet Gear Free Standing Ramp for Dogs
Great for SUV’s or use Next to Your Bed
3. Pet Gear Travel Lite Bi-Fold Ramp for Dogs
- SupertraX tread is soft, protecting pets paws and also provides sure footing and is removable for easy cleaning.
- Easy fold for compact storage. Built in handle for portability
- Rubber grippers on bottom help keep ramp steady
Controlled exercise – often short walks every day are better than long walks every few days! Pets walked infrequently may forget they’re sore, go crazy while off-leash, and then feel even more sorry for themselves the next day.
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