Managing pet arthritis

Osteoarthritis is an extremely common condition that affects pets. At least 65 per cent of dogs and cats will develop osteoarthritis at some point during their life. The good news is with advances in vet medicine, early intervention and treatment can help slow the progression of the disease.

What is osteoarthritis in pets?

Osteoarthritis affects pets in the same way it does humans. This condition leads to the breakdown of cartilage in joints. Cartilage normally protects the joints and acts as a cushion between the bones. Once it is worn down, the bones become exposed and start to rub against each other causing pain and inflammation.

As animals age their cartilage naturally erodes which eventually leads to osteoarthritis. Younger animals might be prone to osteoarthritis if they have genetic diseases, joint infections, fractures, or are overweight.

What are the symptoms?

Cats and dogs may only show subtle signs initially. These can include: inappropriate toileting outside the litter tray; grooming themselves less; becoming less sociable; reluctance to hop onto their favourite spots such as the couch; difficulty climbing stairs; and limping or stiff walking.

You may also notice that your pet has poor flexibility or swollen, sore joints. They may even whimper or meow when touched.

Things you can do to help

It is a good idea to assess your pet’s environment and make sure they are kept warm and dry during the colder months. Ensuring they have soft bedding is helpful – special orthopaedic bedding is now available for pets with arthritis.

Slippery floors increase the risk of falling – it is best to cover these areas to ensure they are non-slip. Additionally, rearranging furniture to help your pet access their favourite spots a little easier, such as the couch.

You might need to create ramps so your pet can get in and out of the car, or up stairs. For cats, make sure litter trays are easily accessible and assist them with grooming, especially if they are struggling.

Unfortunately, being overweight can aggravate the symptoms of osteoarthritis so it’s important that your pet isn’t too chubby and gets sensible exercise. At least 20-60 minutes of low impact exercise, such as swimming or taking short walks is enough.

Medical therapy

The goal of arthritis treatment is to slow the progression of the disease and keep your pet as comfortable, healthy and pain free as possible.

Medication may be prescribed by your vet to help with pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. If your pet is receiving these medications, regular blood tests to monitor kidney and liver function are recommended.

A course of pentosan polysulfate injections may also be suggested by your vet. These injections help to stimulate cartilage production and heal joint damage caused by arthritis.

Nutritional supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin are also available and can help to improve cartilage metabolism and protect your pet’s joints. Your vet may also prescribe a special arthritis prescription diet for your pet to help reduce discomfort.

Complimentary treatments including acupuncture are available at many vets, including Lort Smith, and can be used in conjunction with other therapies.

You can book an appointment with a Lort Smith vet on 03 9328 3021 to discuss and tailor an arthritis treatment program that will best meet your pet’s needs.