Arthritis and our Pets

How to help our furry family members with arthritis

Just like humans, pets may experience stiffness in their joints due to arthritis, a condition which is more common in older pets. However, while ageing is inevitable, it doesn’t mean they have to suffer. There are lots of things we can do to keep our pets comfortable as they enjoy their golden years.

PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, said: “Arthritis is a condition that causes joints to become painful and swollen. Bones in healthy joints have a smooth cartilage surface which allows them to glide past each other when moving. In an arthritic joint, the cartilage breaks down, so the bones rub against each other, causing pain. There can also be damage to the connective tissues that support the joints, creating instability.

“While arthritis may be part of ageing, there are several things you can do to help manage the condition.

Learn the signs

“As your pet gets older, keep an eye out for signs that their joints may be getting stiff so you can offer the necessary support and adjust their daily routine. Tell-tale signs that your furry friend may be experiencing discomfort include getting up more slowly, limping, walking more carefully, and being reluctant to jump onto the sofa or climb the stairs. You may also notice some swelling around joints such as the knees.

“In cats, it’s common for the shoulder blades to become more prominent due to muscle wastage, and they may have matted fur – particularly on their back or around their rear end as it becomes more difficult to twist in order to groom. On the other hand, they may start over-grooming, leading to patches of saliva-stained fur which can cause a pink or brown tinge.

Get a check-up

“If you notice any of these changes, it’s always best to book your pet in for a check-up so that your vet can carry out a thorough examination and rule out other causes. If they are diagnosed with arthritis, your vet will be able to offer advice on treatment options and how best to support them.

“Treatments can vary depending on the pet, but options include pain relief, joint supplements, hydrotherapy, and physiotherapy. In some more severe cases, they may even refer you to a specialist hospital for potential surgery.

How to make their lives easier

“Unless your vet tells you otherwise, keep taking your pooch for walks, but shorter, more frequent outings will be better for them than one long walk. Getting up and down from furniture may become a problem as pets can lose confidence as they feel stiff and less mobile, so adding steps or ramps can help them to move around more freely. Your furry friend may also find tiled or laminate flooring slippery, so adding non-slip mats or rugs will prevent them from sliding and injuring themselves further.

“Offering a selection of beds throughout the house will allow your four-legged family member to choose where they feel most comfortable. For cats, this may mean placing beds at a lower height, as they may not be able to jump up to their usual perches, or help them to access their favourite spot by fitting shelves so they can reach the area with ease. Soft beds or mats are best, ideally slightly off the ground and away from any draughts, as hard or cold floors can be painful for older pets. Consider choosing a special orthopaedic bed designed for pets with arthritis to take the pressure off sore joints.

“Keeping your furry family member at a healthy weight is vitally important too, as the heavier they are, the more pressure there will be on their joints. Be mindful that it might be necessary to adjust your pet’s diet as they become less active.”

PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information.

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