Pets and Arthritis
It can be hard to know when our pets aren’t feeling 100% so it is important to monitor any changes in your buddy’s behaviour, appetite or energy levels as this may be their way of telling you that something is wrong.
As pets get older, it is normal for them to begin to move less, start sprouting those adorable little grey hairs and just generally slow down.
So how do you know if they are suffering with arthritis and how can you treat it? We got the low down from Dr Bronwen Slack, one of our fantastic PETstock Vets, who tells us all about how to recognise arthritis and what to do if your buddy has arthritis.
How do I know if my pet has arthritis?
If you suspect that your buddy might be suffering from arthritis, keep an eye out for these warning signs and seek advice from your vet as soon as you start noticing a change. As with many long-term conditions, it is best to act early to slow down the impact it will have on your pet.
Symptoms of arthritis include:
- difficulty getting up in the mornings
- not being able to jump up onto their bed or the couch
- sleeping more
- moving more slowly
- stopping frequently on walks
How can I make my pet more comfortable?
There are a few things you can do to make your pet more comfortable if they are suffering from arthritis.
Keep them warm in winter
If your pet has been diagnosed with arthritis it is important to keep them warm, especially during winter. This is because cold joints are more stiff and painful to move than a nice warm joint. You can keep your pet warm in cold weather by keeping them indoors, providing nice warm bedding, fitting them with a warm comfy jacket and turning the heater on.
Just make sure they are able to move somewhere cooler if they get too warm and they have plenty of fresh water available. You can tell if are getting too hot if they start panting.
View our Winter Apparel range here!
Provide a nice comfy bed to alleviate pressure
Thick soft bedding with plenty of support is ideal for arthritic pets and we recommend beds with a memory foam mattress. Place these on the floor as elevated beds can be difficult to get up onto for older pets.
If your buddy sleeps in a kennel outside, ensure the mattress inside the kennel has sufficient support and some cosy blankets to keep your buddy warm. Ideally, the kennel should be located in a sheltered spot out of the elements to avoid the bedding becoming wet from directional rain or from your buddy walking in and out.
You can also provide a patio bed in a nice sunny spot to avoid them laying on the cold concrete during the day. These beds keep your buddy up off the ground and relieve pressure on their joints from hard surfaces.
For pets who sleep on a family member’s bed, you may notice them having trouble climbing up and getting down from high places. This is due to additional stress being placed on their inflamed joints when jumping. You can help alleviate this by lifting them up onto the bed, or if they are too heavy to lift, provide some pet stairs to help them climb up and down from furniture easily.
Should I exercise my pet that has arthritis?
Yes. Gentle, regular exercise is important and beneficial to an arthritic pet for two reasons; Firstly, it helps your pet maintain a healthy weight. Overweight pets suffer more pain from arthritis as the extra weight applies more pressure to stiff joints, so keeping your buddy at their ideal weight will help ease this extra pressure and will lower pain.
Secondly, regular exercise will help build and maintain muscle strength. This helps support bones and joints while increasing blood flow to the joints.
For an older pet, a short 10-20 minute slow walk every day is better than a 3 hour run around the park once a week. Ensure you don’t overdo exercise as this will inflame the joints and lead to extra recovery for your pet. Be sure to monitor your buddy when you are out and about as they will let you know when they’ve had enough.
What food should I feed my pet with arthritis?
As with many ailments, a good diet can help manage symptoms and ease pain by providing specific nutrients. If your pet has arthritis, chat to your vet about changing them onto a prescription diet designed specifically for arthritis. Your vet will be able to talk you through the options and recommend a diet that is best for your pet. Many joint support diets contain Omega 3 fatty acids and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) to nourish cartilage, as well as antioxidants to support a healthy immune system. They are also designed to help your pet maintain a healthy weight.
Alternatively, you may decide to try additional supplements for your buddy such as the PAW Osteocare Joint Chews or the Rose-Hip Vital Joint Formula. These joint care formulas have been specifically designed to deliver additional nutrients aimed at improving joint health and can be of benefit to pets who have arthritis.
What your vet can do for you and your pet that has arthritis?
If you think your pet is suffering from arthritis it is important to visit your vet so that they can assess your pet and rule out any other more serious problems that may be causing the joint pain. They will be able to advise you on the best diet, exercise regime, bedding and clothing for your pet. They will also be able to recommend a course of arthritis injections and pain relief tablets if needed, to help your buddy along.
Remember – arthritis is not easily reversible, so it is important to start your pet on a good arthritis treatment plan at the earliest signs of arthritis, before it becomes too advanced. If caught early, arthritis can be slowed down before it slows down your pet!