Helping your arthritic pet

Arthritis (also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease) is the progressive and permanent deterioration of joint cartilage, which results in significant pain and discomfort. Arthritis can affect both cats and dogs; however, some are better at hiding their pain and discomfort than others. Some things to look out for in your pet include:

  • Limping or stiffness when walking
  • Yelping or crying in pain
  • Warm, swollen or sore joints
  • Joint stiffness especially first thing in the morning or after lying down for a while, especially in the colder weather
  • Reluctance to jump onto or off objects (like your couch or car)
  • Reluctance to walk
  • Soiling themselves (due to a reluctance to get up to urinate or defacate).

If you notice any of the above signs, it’s best to consult your veterinarian for the most suitable treatment for your pet. Regardless of the type of animal or how many clinical signs they show, it’s always best to start treatment early as treatments DO NOT reverse the signs of arthritis but only help to ease the discomfort and reduce the speed of progression. As such, management techniques should be started in young adults before arthritis worsens. Treatments may include:

  1. Weight management! Increased fat on your pet means the increased weight on their arthritic joints. More importantly, fat releases an enzyme called Adiponectin which works to degrade cartilage! By keeping your pet lean and healthy, you will improve their quality of life.
  2. Joint supplements – just as you or I would take fish oil and glucosamine tablets for our joint health, your pet would also benefit from a daily joint supplement. These supplements work to enhance joint health and also give your pet a nice shiny coat. Supplements come in a powdered form that can be sprinkled on your pet’s food or as a tasty chew. There are also some commercial foods that incorporate these joint supplements. See your vet for recommended supplement brands.
  3. Arthritis injections – These injections are called Cartrophen injections and works to improve joint health by altering osteoarthritis metabolism. Your vet will administer these injections which typically involves a course of injections (1 injection weekly for four weeks). In pets that have joint issues (e.g. hip dysplasia, patellar (knee-cap) luxation, cruciate injury), it is important to start these injections immediately as these animals are more likely to develop arthritis early in life.
  4. Adequate rest – Even though your dog may be painful, it may not stop their drive to run and play which can sometimes exacerbate their pain. It is important for us as owners to keep this in mind when playing with them and to reduce the level or length of play or stop it altogether when they have arthritis flare-ups.
  5. Keep them warm – an animal with arthritis feel more joint pain and discomfort during the colder months, therefore, it’s very important to make sure they are kept warm in cold weather and have a cosy soft bed to sleep on the inside, sheltered away from the harsh winter chill.
  6. Anti-inflammatories – When your animal has arthritis flare-ups, or when their pain cannot be managed adequately with the above techniques, your vet can prescribe anti-inflammatories specifically for your pet to ease their pain and discomfort. Your vet will ensure that your pet does not have any illnesses or issues preventing them from taking these anti-inflammatories safely. A biannual check-up and blood test is recommended at this stage to ensure that your pet’s condition is being treated adequately.

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