Think your pet has arthritis?

AdobeStock_25942229.jpegArthritis is one of the most common ailments seen in middle-aged to older pets. Even younger dogs and cats can suffer from this condition. Arthritis causes changes within the affected joints resulting in pain for your pet and it is this pain that is responsible for many of the signs associated with arthritis.

Arthritis in cats can be particularly hard to spot. Many arthritic cats simply become less active. Often, this change in behaviour corresponds to the cat becoming older and a cat owner may simply assume that the change is normal when, in fact, your cat may actually be decreasing his activity level because he is in pain due to arthritis.

See if your pet is suffering from any of the signs below…

1. Limping

You may see your pet limping or favouring one or more of his legs, depending on which legs and which joints are arthritic. In some cases, the limp may seem worse when your pet first rises and become less noticeable as your pet “warms up” by moving around. You may also notice that the limping is worse on colder days or early in the morning.

 2. Difficulty Moving

Your pet may also become reluctant to do things that were previously easy for him to do. For example, your dog may find it difficult to get into and out of the car or may have difficulty going up and down stairs that were previously easily manageable. Arthritic cats, on the other hand, may stop jumping onto countertops, perches and other high areas or show reluctance to jump down.

 3. Spinal Issues

Arthritic changes can occur not only in the legs but also in the spinal vertebrae. These changes may result in a sore neck, an abnormal posture with a “hunch” in the back, or lameness of one or both hind legs.

4. Tiredness

Your pet may tire more easily. For dogs, this may mean that walks become shorter. For both dogs and cats you may notice they spend more time sleeping and/or resting.

5. Irritability

Arthritic pets may become irritable. They may snap and/or bite when approached or handled, particularly if the petting or handling takes place in a manner that increases their pain.

 6. Muscle Atrophy

Arthritic pets often develop muscle loss of the muscles surrounding the arthritic joint. This muscle loss is due to inactivity and decreased use of the muscles. A pet with atrophied muscles in their legs will have a leg which looks thinner than a normal leg.

7. Licking, Chewing & Biting

Pets tend to lick at, chew or bite at body areas that are painful. In the case of arthritis you may find that your pet licks or chews over a joint. This may even reach the point of causing inflammation, infection and hair loss over the affected area.
 

So How Do You Know If Your Pet Has Arthritis?

One of the first things you can do is book a consultation with your veterinarian. He or she will ask a detailed history of what has been happening with your pet. He or she will also watch the way your pet moves including walking and sitting/laying down. After this the veterinarian will perform an examination of your pets joint. Sometimes radiographs may be required to confirm and stage the degree of arthritis present.
 
Arthritis in cats can be particularly hard to spot. Many arthritic cats simply become less active. Often, this change in behaviour corresponds to the cat becoming older and a cat owner may simply assume that the change is normal when, in fact, your cat may actually be decreasing his activity level because he is in pain due to arthritis.
 

Treatment options for Arthritic Pets

The first thing you must know is that arthritis cannot be cured. Once it has started there is no going back. All we can do is try to slow the progression and make your pet more comfortable. Luckily there are various things we can do to make your pet more comfortable.
 

1. Weight Management

This is the most important aspect of managing a pet with arthritis. Overweight pets will place proportionally more weight on their joints resulting in more inflammation and irritation to the joints. This will not only hasten the progression of arthritis but will also result in more pain. For more information on how to effectively get your pet to lose weight contact the clinic for a free weight loss chat with a vet.

 2. Exercise Management

Moderate and controlled exercise is a very important part of your pet’s arthritis management. However uncontrolled exercise, or too much exercise, can cause the opposite and result in further progression of this disease. On lead walking, swimming, exercising on grass rather than concrete are some of the exercises that are beneficial to your pet.

 3. Environmental Changes

Ensuring your pet has a warm bed that is up off the ground and free of cold drafts is one example of environmental changes that can make a huge difference to your pet’s pain.

 4. Treatments

There are a number of treatments that we can offer ranging from medications through to complementary therapies such as acupuncture. The best options will depend on a number of different factors such as the age of your pet, the severity of signs, likely progression of the disease and whether your pet has any other health problems.
 
Don’t delay, if you think your pet may be showing signs of this debilitating disease, or you think your pet is showing early signs of arthritis and you want to be proactive about slowing it down, then call today!

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