Arthritis is one of the most common causes of joint problems in animals. The most common form of arthritis is degenerative osteoarthritis, which can be primary – where the cause is not known, or secondary – caused by conditions such as hip dysplasia or injuries.
In young animals, a smooth protective layer of cartilage normally covers the joint surfaces, which are bathed in fluid. Over a pet’s lifetime, these joint surfaces can be rubbed away through wear and tear, with running and jumping causing further damage. This can result in inflammation of the joints, stiffness and reduced mobility.
Arthritis is not an inevitable part of old age, and pets of any age can be affected. However, the highest incidence of the condition is found in the country’s pet pensioner population and those with weight problems. Obesity can lead to the onset of arthritis as it causes additional pressure on the joints.
Although dogs are three times more likely to be prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) tablets in their lifetimes than cats, suggest PDSA’s figures, the charity believes the actual number of cats suffering from arthritis could actually be much higher, and is worried that cat owners might be missing the symptoms in their feline companions.
Arthritis is much easier to spot in dogs, which are by their nature more active than cats and often lead a much more sedentary life. Pet owners should closely monitor their pet’s mobility so any changes can be spotted early. Any change in a pet’s behaviour or physical ability could be a sign of disease, which is why it is important to speak to your vet for advice if you are in anyway concerned about your pet’s health.
Caring For Arthritic Pets
A balanced diet and weight control are vital in the management of arthritis in pets. Obesity puts a major strain on a pet’s joints. In many cases, regular exercise is also important. It is vital to keep pets mobile even in their twilight years.
Although it is difficult to follow a strict exercise regime for an arthritic pet, the benefit to their mobility is well worth the extra effort. Owners should always consult their vet for advice on diet and exercise, as the needs of an arthritic pet will vary depending on the severity of the condition, their age, weight and species.
For example in arthritic dogs, a small amount of exercise taken frequently is likely to be recommended. If an arthritic dog is left to sleep for long periods of time, their joints may become stiff. However, encouraging a dog to walk regularly will help to loosen up problematic joints.
“Pets might look like they are happy curled up on the sofa but even a regular short walk to the end of the road or a trot round the garden will help keep their joints moving and reduce stiffness and keep their weight under control,” explains PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Elaine Pendlebury.
Keeping a pet’s joints warm may also help and some vets may recommend massage or physiotherapy. Consult your vet for advice on the techniques to use and ask for a practical demonstration.
Advances in medical treatment means there are a range of treatments available to help treat arthritis and put the spring back in your pet’s paws. A vet may prescribe medicines to help alleviate symptoms as and when necessary. Although these may increase your pet’s level of movement, they are not miracle cures and should be used in conjunction with weight control and good exercise management.
Caring for an arthritic pet involves a great deal of commitment from an owner, but with lots of affection and regular veterinary care, affected pets can enjoy a comfortable life.
Pet owners can play a vital part in preventing arthritis and alleviating arthritic symptoms. Elaine says, “I have seen many cases of arthritis where the pet can be greatly helped, not only through veterinary care, but also through weight reduction and changes to their daily routine, such as including more exercise. By addressing these key factors early it could help prevent or at least reduce the symptoms of this debilitating condition later in a pet’s life.”
Pet care information: www.pdsa.org.ukLast modified: June 10, 2021