Petnet Health Series: Arthritis

The next post in our Petnet Health Series is going to look at arthritis and how it affects your pets. Canine or feline arthritis (or osteoarthritis), just like with humans, is a degenerative joint disease caused by the breakdown of the protective cartilage that covers the joints.  

What causes arthritis?

Once the cartilage around the joints wears away, the bone on bone friction created causes inflammation and pain. There are several different factors that contribute to the development of arthritis including:

  • Trauma to the joint through prior injuries, breaks or sprains to the bone or ligaments
  • An inherited condition, such as elbow or hip dysplasia
  • Obesity
  • Aging and natural erosion

 What are the symptoms of arthritis?

Arthritis will most often manifest itself in limping or an abnormal gait in your pet. Dogs and cats tend to act brave and they are experts at hiding weakness, so you must be observant and diligent in monitoring their activity. Your pet may also react when you massage or hold the affected limb.

You may also notice difficulty in getting up or lying down. This may indicate pain in the spine or neck. Your dog may also find it difficult to get into the car or up and down from the sofa. And you cat may lapse in their fastidious litterbox habits dues to pain getting in and out of the box.
Constant or obsessive licking of a joint or paws may also be a signal of pain. And a reluctance to go up and down stairs may also be indicators of increased painfulness.

How do you treat arthritis?

If you are fortunate, you may be able to manage your pet’s arthritis with some simple adjustments.

  1. A healthy diet and maintenance of proper weight. The more overweight your pet is, the more difficulty they will have with arthritis and carrying around those extra pounds.
  2. Add a nutritional supplement such as fish oil or glucosamine/chondroitin to their meals to decrease inflammation.
  3. For your dog, exercise is good, but make it low impact like swimming or walking.
  4. Depending on the severity of your pet’s arthritis, painkillers and other prescription anti-inflammatory medications may be beneficial. (NOTE: Never give your pet human medication without your vet’s approval).
  5. You may also explore other treatments such as acupuncture, electrotherapy, physical therapy and water therapy. These rehabilitation treatments can be beneficial and certainly worth the time and money.

Other adjustments you can may make to your home or lifestyle in order to help your pet be more comfortable:

  • Be sure they have a warm, dry place to sleep with softer bedding. Many pet beds are now made with orthopedic foam which certainly will help the pressure points that can develop from reduced activity. 
  • Raise their water and food bowls so they aren’t straining to reach them. 
  • Provide gentle massage to the affected areas and groom them if the dog can no longer reach to groom themselves.
  • Think about stairs or a ramp to facilitate access to the car, sofa or bed.

Your pet can live a long, happy and active life with arthritis, but it’s up to you to be aware of the symptoms and help manage their discomfort as best you can.

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