Caring for pets with arthritis
World Arthritis Day – 12 October
There’s a silent illness that can flare up in cold weather. But it can be tricky to spot, or simply mistaken for old age – arthritis.
Although it is more common in older pets, arthritis can affect pets of any age. Thankfully, there are treatments available to help pets continue to live a good quality of life.
Natural wear and tear, caused by aging, reduces the amount of cartilage that cushions the joints. This causes swelling and pain.
PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “Pets with arthritis become less active and may prefer to curl up in their beds instead of going out for a walk or venturing outdoors as they can feel uncomfortable and miserable. Cats can struggle to groom themselves properly, leading to their coats looking dull or knotty.”
Although arthritis can’t be cured, it can be managed through medication and a few simple changes to a pet’s lifestyle.
Nina 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 be given advice on lifestyle changes to help your pet feel 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 be beneficial.
“When it comes to exercise, ‘little and often’ helps keep joints mobile and puts them under less pressure than longer walks. Your vet or vet nurse can build you an exercise and diet programme that is suitable for your pet.”
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 a pet with arthritis takes understanding and patience, 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. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk