This week marks National Arthritis Week (7-13 October) and while many of us are aware of the condition in humans, it can also affect our furry companions. While sadly there isn’t a cure, if your pet does have arthritis, there are many ways to help your four-legged friend continue to live a happy life.
PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “If you suspect your pet has arthritis, visiting your vet should be the first port of call. That being said, there are also things you can do at home to help.”
“Symptoms of arthritis can be quite subtle at first, so knowing what to look for helps you to notice the signs and get your pet help early on. Telltale signs that your pet is feeling less comfortable and mobile include being slower to get started in the mornings or after lying down for a while, being more cautious about doorsteps or stairs, or thinking twice about jumping up to sit next to you. These early signs can be easy to miss, or just thought of as slowing down due to old age. As the arthritis progresses, you may see a limp or your pet may sit or lie awkwardly or even yelp out in pain. In some cases you may notice swelling around the joints, but try not to go prodding and poking as arthritic joints can be painful.
“Keep an eye on your furry companion’s mood as well, it’s a good indicator if something is wrong – getting less tolerant and grumpier than usual is often associated with pain.
“Another sign to be aware of is overgrooming. Your pet may try to constantly lick a certain spot if it hurts. You may see pink or brown coloured saliva stains on the fur, or a persistent wet patch. Alternatively, you may find your pet starts to groom less as they struggle to reach some areas.
“Regular vet check-ups are important in helping you to recognise any changes in your pet’s behaviour or physical health.
Helpful home care
“One of the most important things you can do as an owner to help treat, or even in some cases prevent, arthritis is to keep your pet a healthy weight. Look for good quality food that includes ingredients to protect their joints and monitor your pet’s weight to make sure the pounds aren’t creeping on. As well as keeping your pet in shape, regular exercise helps to keep muscles strong, putting less strain on the joints. Longer walks may be a bit of a struggle for your arthritic pooch, so take lots of shorter trips out to keep them mobile or if they enjoy water, look into indoor swimming options for them.
“To ease the pain for your furry friend, give them a warm, comfy bed that is easy to get into and protected from draughts. Memory foam beds are kind to joints, helping your pooch or puss relax. Heat pads under beds can be useful for easing aches and pains.
“If you are a cat owner then you know how much your feline friend loves to perch in high places. But arthritis can make it difficult for them to jump up to their favourite spots. Help your puss access these places by carefully placing ramps and steps nearby, or moving furniture to give them an easier route without jumping.
“Reduced mobility due to arthritis can make slips and injuries more likely. Mats, rugs or carpet covering slippy floors in your home helps to keep your four-legged friend safe.
PDSA is the UK’s largest 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