Arthritis in Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets: Prevention and Management
Arthritis in Pets
The trend in the pet world has been that animals are living much longer. This great news for pet lovers does come with new concerns for pet parents. Older pets tend to experience health problems as they age, including some ailments many thought were mostly reserved for humans like cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. It might be difficult to imagine your playful pups struggling to walk and get out of bed, but there are some solutions and home remedies to keep your beloved animals as comfortable as possible.
What exactly is arthritis?
Technically arthritis is defined as “inflammation of joints.” When the cartilage in our pets’ bodies starts to thin out due to their age, joint inflame and excess joint fluid builds up in the body. Bony growths called osteophytes, also known as bone spurs, can develop. The bones beneath this cartilage begin to deteriorate.
Worried your pet might have arthritis?
Unfortunately, most pets are unable to tell us that they are in pain and often do not show it until they can no longer hide it. Some signs that your pet may be affected by arthritis are:
- Loss of motion
- Change in attitude
- Excessive Tiredness
- Change in daily activities (playing, jumping up to his favorite spot, etc.)
- Hunched back
What causes arthritis in pets?
Some pets are more prone to arthritis than others. Large breed dogs tend to have more issues with hip dysplasia and arthritis. Other causes of arthritis do exist, and we can even do our best to prevent certain causes! Pets that are overweight are more likely to develop arthritis because the extra weight puts more pressure on their bodies and joints. Certain developmental disorders like Wobbler’s Syndrome can also lead to arthritis in your dog. Lyme Disease is also a major cause of arthritis in pets.
Preventing and Managing Arthritis in your pet
- Joint Supplements – No one is really sure if these help, but since they do not cause any other health issues for your pet, it is worth it to give the supplements a try.
- Weight Management – A great way to help prevent arthritis is to ensure that your pet is at the proper weight throughout his or her life. Maintaining proper nutrition and regular exercise will help your pet to stay fit.
- Preventing Lyme Disease – Using flea and tick preventatives will prevent ticks from infecting your dog or cat with Lyme Disease. Also, be sure to check your pets for ticks after periods outside or in heavily grassy or woody areas. Make sure to get your pet tested for Lyme Disease at your routine vet visits.
- Light Exercise – If you are pet is in the beginning stages of arthritis, light exercise like walking can be helpful.
- High Quality Bed – a good bed, preferably an orthopedic bed is helpful. A good bed will be easy on your dog’s limbs and muscles.
- Warmer Temperatures – The cold can make arthritis worse and make it more difficult for your pet to “work out” his joints and muscles. Keeping your home at a higher temperature will keep your pet more comfortable. Some pet owners even use a heating pad on their pets for short amount of times to help with the aches and pains (just be careful it is not too hot for your pet!)
- Massage – There are many practices that will provide massage for your pets which can help making coping with arthritis easier.
- Physical Therapy – Dogs or cats with arthritis might benefit from physical therapy with a properly trained therapist.
Arthritis in your pet can be very frustrating, and quite frankly, hard to watch. My own pup is in the beginning stages of arthritis (he’s a Rottweiler, so arthritis is relatively common for his breed.) I am trying everything to help his condition and make him more comfortable. You should discuss treatment options with your vet. In extreme cases, your dog or cat may require surgery. Also, it is important to have your vet ensure that there are not any other underlying health concerns.
Treatment is expensive, and vet bills can quickly add up. If you need some assistance with the financial stressors of a pet with arthritis, a Pet Assure membership will provide you with 25% off at a participating vet. A membership will help you save and come in extra handy if your pet needs surgery down the line.