Our pets can suffer from arthritis just like we can. This can be uncomfortable for them and can have a negative impact on their quality of life, so it’s not something to be ignored.
Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints which makes moving painful. The joints that are most susceptible to arthritis are the synovial joints which are used to permit free limb movements. Examples are the elbow, knee and hip joint. The ends of the bones that meet at these joints are covered by very smooth articular cartilage. Arthritis develops when this cartilage becomes roughened and cracked. Arthritis is usually caused by wear and tear on the joints of older cats and dogs but can occur because of obesity, a past injury, or poor joint conformation. Recognising the signs and symptoms of arthritis will ensure early treatment which will make a big difference to your pet’s quality of life.
While dogs might show signs of suffering, cats are very good at hiding any ailments so it can be quite hard to spot arthritis in felines. As the condition will gradually get worse, they might start showing signs as the joint deteriorates further.
Here are a few symptoms of arthritis in cats and dogs:
- Lameness - limping or walking differently
- Slowing down on walks
- Tiredness on walks
- Irritable, nervous or aggressive behaviour
- Reluctance (or showing hesitation) to jump up or down
- Grooming less often
- Toileting outside of the litter tray or indoors
- Licking of joints or area of pain
Arthritis is usually diagnosed with a combination of a clinical examination (looking for stiffness, pain and roughness in the joints), a history of changes/symptoms, and x-rays to confirm the degree of bone changes.
Arthritis cannot be cured, but we can work with you to implement measures to improve the life of your arthritic pet, and make them comfortable. Pain and swelling can be managed with long-term, anti-inflammatory drugs. This will improve their mobility and help maintain muscle mass. Supplements can be used along with medication to reduce stiffness and increase mobility, but might not work for all pets. Hydrotherapy can be used to help dogs with arthritis, as it allows them to exercise without putting too much strain on the joints. Your vet will be able to advise you if surgery is an option for your pet. Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for arthritic care, to prevent unnecessary strain on joints.