Arthritis in pets can be an invisible but incredibly painful condition and during Arthritis Awareness Week (7 – 13 Oct), vet charity PDSA is offering advice on how to keep pets living with the condition as happy, healthy and active as possible.
In arthritic dogs, wear and tear – often caused by aging – reduces the amount of cartilage that supports the joints, causing inflammation and pain. Although 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.
PDSA Vet Lynne James, said: “Signs of arthritis often include a reluctance to exercise or stiffness, which is usually noticed after pets have been resting. They might be struggling to groom themselves, as they can’t bend to reach certain areas, or could be over-licking places that are painful. You might notice that they are worried about being touched or are protective when you get too close. If you’re worried your pet might have arthritis then see your vet as soon as possible.
“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 and rabbits that are struggling to groom themselves properly can have coats that look dull or knotty.”
Lynne adds: “Slowing down and stiffness don’t always go hand in hand with old age so it’s worth visiting your vet if you notice any symptoms, or suspect your pet may have arthritis. Although arthritis can’t be cured, it can be often be managed through medication and some simple changes to a pet’s lifestyle. 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 tailored to your pet.”
Hydrotherapy and physiotherapy can also be helpful to relieve the difficulties and pain associated with arthritis. Ask your vet for a referral to an accredited professional.
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, as 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 and stay happy and active into their golden years.
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/appeal.