Arthritis in dogs and cats is one of the most common problems our pets can face as they get older and, as with humans, it can flare up in cold weather.
Natural wear and tear, caused by aging, reduces the amount of cartilage that cushions the joints. This causes swelling and pain.
Signs of arthritis in your pet include stiffness or a reluctance to exercise, which we usually notice in our pets after they have been resting. If they are struggling to groom themselves, are overly licking areas that might be painful or are protective of you touching certain areas then they will need to be seen by the vet.
PDSA Vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan said: “Pets with arthritis may seem to have a little less energy, preferring to curl up in their beds instead of going out on a walk or spending time in the outdoors. Cats can struggle to groom themselves properly and may have a noticeable deterioration in their coat quality.”
Arthritis can’t be cured, but it can be managed through medication and simple changes to a pet’s lifestyle.
Olivia adds: “It’s worth visiting your vet if you notice any symptoms, or suspect your pet may have arthritis. Pain-relief and anti-inflammatory medication can be prescribed, and you’ll also be advice given on changes you can make at home to help make your pet more comfortable.
“Maintaining a healthy weight is very important because excess weight puts even more pressure on sore joints. It’s worth asking your vet about prescription diets or joint supplements for arthritis too, as these can beneficial.
“When it comes to exercise, ‘little and often’ helps keep joints mobile and puts them under less pressure than longer walks with extended periods of rest. Your vet or vet nurse will be able to give you an appropriate exercise and diet programme that is unique to your pet’s needs.”
Hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and acupuncture can also be helpful to relieve the difficulties and pain associated with arthritis. Ask your vet for a referral to an accredited specialist.
A typical treatment plan for a pet with arthritis could include:
- Medication prescribed for your pet by their vet to reduce pain and swelling
- Prescription diets or nutritional supplements that may improve joint function or reduce inflammation
- Changes to your pet’s diet to keep them a healthy weight and size
- Regular periods of short gentle exercise
- Hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and other complementary treatments, if advised by your vet
Caring for an arthritic pet involves understanding from their owner, but with careful management and treatment, affected pets can still enjoy a good quality of life.
PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk
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