Arthritis in Pets: What You Need to Know

A large black older dog

Whether you’ve had your pet since they were young, or you adopted an older pet, living with a middle-aged or senior dog or cat has its perks. Older pets tend to grow out of the desire to wander from home and jump up on people, they understand our ways, and they offer a calm, reassuring presence whenever they’re nearby.  

Having an older pet often means providing a little extra TLC when it comes to their daily care, especially if they have age-related conditions like arthritis. This painful ailment commonly affects older and middle-aged pets and can greatly reduce their quality of life. Getting a handle on arthritis in pets as early as possible is the key to keeping them comfortable and pain-free throughout their golden years.

Symptoms of Pet Arthritis

Symptoms of arthritis in pets may not be noticeable in the early stages of the disease. Pets also tend to hide signs of pain for as long as possible, which means that owners need to be on the lookout for any abnormalities in behavior or affect as their pets age. 

Arthritic pets may develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Stiffness after exercise or rest
  • Limping
  • Trouble getting up, lying down, going up and downstairs
  • Reduced activity level
  • Changes in behavior/mood
  • Abnormal posture
  • Joint swelling

Risk Factors

Age is the main risk factor for arthritis in pets. Certain feline breeds like Maine Coon, Persian, and Siamese, and canine breeds like Labrador, Retriever, and German Shepherd are genetically predisposed to joint problems. Although not necessarily the cause of arthritis, obesity puts a lot of pressure on the joints, and can greatly increase the severity and discomfort of the condition.

Managing Arthritis in Pets

While there is currently no cure for arthritis in pets, there are plenty of things pet owners can do to help alleviate their pet’s pain and return their mobility.

Weight management – Getting or keeping your pet at a healthy weight is key when it comes to reducing stress on the joints and alleviating pain. Your veterinarian can work with you to come up with a dietary and exercise program for your pet.

Exercise – Movement keeps the joints limber, and is important for the overall quality of life for arthritic pets. Depending on the severity of your pet’s condition, your veterinarian may suggest short walks, exercise on soft surfaces, or other activity ideas. 

Warmth – Being cold and wet aggravates arthritis, so make sure your pet is kept warm and dry. Consider a heated, orthopedic pet bed for added comfort.

Medications and supplements – Glucosamine and chondroitin have been used to manage arthritis in older animals with varying degrees of success. Pain medications, such as NSAIDs can also help, but be sure to only use these with your veterinarian’s advice.  

Alternative treatments – Laser therapy, acupuncture, and massage aren’t just for people. These relaxing, painless treatments have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in pets, too.

Environmental aids – Non-slip flooring, ramps, soft bedding, and lots of attention and TLC will go a long way towards helping your arthritic pet feel and function better.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment for your pet, don’t hesitate to contact the team at Berkeley Veterinary Center.

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