Just like humans, many of our pets will suffer from arthritis during their lifetime. Sadly up to 1 in 5 dogs over the age of one have been shown to have signs of arthritis, as well as 60% of adult cats. Unfortunately, these numbers only increase with age. At Rest Your Paws, many of our patients have arthritis alongside their other conditions, so we thought we’d give you some hints and tips on how to help your pet live comfortably with arthritis.
Arthritis is a disease that causes pain, inflammation, and damage to the internal structures of the joint such as cartilage and bone. Signs of arthritis in pets include:
If your pet is showing any of these signs, it’s essential to get them checked by a vet, as arthritis can quickly affect your pet’s quality of life.
Arthritis is a degenerative disease meaning it gets worse over time. Though there is no cure, there are many things we can do to try and slow its progression and help our pets feel more comfortable. Here are our top vet tips for helping pets with arthritis live a normal, healthy life:
1. Watch their weight
Many of us love to spoil our dogs and cats with treats, especially as they get older or slow down. But those extra kilos can mean a world of difference for a pet with arthritis. Keeping your pet at a healthy lean body weight helps reduce pressure on their joints. This means less pain and may even help to slow down the disease.
The problem is that many dogs and cats in Australia are already overweight. Studies have suggested that almost half of dogs and one-third of cats are overweight or obese. Your vet can check your pet’s weight and body condition and prescribe a weight loss plan if needed.
2. Nutrition know-how
Today there are many pet food products on the market designed for animals with arthritis. So which ingredients should you be looking out for?
Most vets recommend omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish oil), glucosamine, and chondroitin sulphate in products specially designed for dogs and cats. These ingredients can help protect cartilage and provide anti-inflammatory effects. They can be found in nutritional supplements such as joint powders or treats and in certain pet foods.
But before you start adding a supplement to your pet’s diet or change their food, make sure you speak to your vet. Though these products and diets are safe for most pets, they aren’t suitable for all. This is especially important for pets with underlying health issues like diabetes or pancreatitis.
3. Help them at home
Stiff and sore joints need a little extra care. Luckily, there are many simple ways to make our home more comfortable for our pets.
Pets with arthritis struggle on slippery surfaces such as tiles or floorboards. Rugs or non-slip yoga mats can be a great way to provide some extra grip. Jumping into the car or onto the bed can also be tricky and is best avoided for pets with sore joints. Instead, try providing ramps or pet steps. Cats may also find stepping into their litter box uncomfortable, especially if it has high sides, so find a tray with a lower opening for easy access.
Warm, well-padded bedding will also give your pet the support they need while resting. An orthopedic pet bed made from memory foam is a great option, and most of these have washable covers for easy cleaning.
If you have any questions about your home’s set-up, you can always ask us when we visit your pet – we’ll happily take a look around and see if there are any changes you can make to make life easier for your pet.
4. Manage arthritis pain
If you have arthritis or know someone who does, you’ll see that it’s a painful condition. Managing the pain means better quality of life for your four-legged friend and is just one of the reasons any pet with arthritis (or suspected to have it) should visit a vet.
Our vets can assess your pet’s pain levels and discuss the use of medications if needed to help keep them comfortable. Regular injections of pentosan polysulphate sodium (also known as Cartrophen) can also be given to help manage the pain and preserve joint health. These can be given in the comfort of your own home.
Don’t forget our beloved rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small mammals can suffer from arthritis too. Your vet will also be able to provide pain-relief options for these pets and advice on how best to care for them at home.
5. Let’s get physical
Regular gentle exercise is important to help keep your pet’s joints moving and maintain muscle strength. Exercise must be low-impact, like walking on a lead or swimming – not chasing balls, running, or jumping! It’s also helpful to avoid stepping on unstable surfaces such as sand, as this is both difficult and uncomfortable for pets with arthritis. Stick to footpaths or grass where possible or keep to the wet sand closer to the water.
Regular sessions of 20-30 minutes or less are ideal, depending on your pet’s ability, so keep it short and sweet. If you miss a session, don’t try to make up for it by doing extra next time. Too much exercise has the opposite effect and causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness. We’ll happily suggest some exercises you can do at home with your pet. Alternatively, you can consider using a qualified veterinary physiotherapist who can provide personalised treatment plans to help dogs and cats with arthritis.
Arthritis is very common, especially in our older pets, but at Rest Your Paws, we know many tips and tricks to make your dog or cat more comfortable. Whether it’s making adjustments to your home, changing their diet, or using pain relief, we’ll happily help you help your arthritic pet.
For more insight on arthritis in your dog or cat, including diagnosis, treatment and life expectancy, visit our blogs on the subject here: