BlogcatdogRescueseniorVet House Callsveterinarian

Arthritis in Animals: What you can do to make a better life for your best friend

By November 11th, 2015One Comment


Learning that the animal you love has arthritis can be hard on both of you.  However, there are medications, therapies, and ways you can adapt your home to help your pet enjoy life.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints in which the normal cartilage cushion breaks down.  Eventually, adjacent bones rub against each other, causing pain, decreased joint
movement, and sometimes the formation of bone spurs and other changes around the joint. Although it is a progressive disease, it can be slowed to preserve remaining joint function.
Symptoms of arthritis can be hard to distinguish—animals can’t complain about their aching joints. Pain itself is complex. The body manufactures many different chemicals and receptors, and
even has different types of nerves to transmit pain information to the brain.
Pain lets the body know that an area is injured so that it is not overused and further damaged. Inflammation serves as the first stage of healing, to bring blood and nutrients to an area of injury.
However, pain and inflammation can both get out of hand.
Pets differ in how they show pain, and you may never realize they are in pain if you’re not specifically looking for it.
Animals with arthritis might avoid the activities they used to enjoy. Some animals may become depressed or change their eating habits; others may simply seem grumpier than usual.
Arthritis makes animals less able to deal with the physical challenges of their world. A few alterations can help your arthritic pet to move more easily and confidently.
• Keep litter boxes and food and water dishes at a comfortable height, easily accessible, and on a non-slip surface.
• Supply a warm, padded surface to cushion your pet’s joints while she sits and sleeps. Consider wrapping a hot water bottle in towels or tucking a microwaveable heating pad into her bed.
• Ramps can help where the jump may be too far for sore joints. Make sure that both ends are completely secure, and be sure that the angle is not too steep.
• Outside, pets with arthritis are vulnerable to injuries from falling, and to attacks from other animals. Stay by the window and watch her.
• As animals lose flexibility in their joints, they can’t reach around to scratch or groom themselves the way they used to. Regular grooming will help your pet feel comfortable and allow you to
spend some quiet time with her.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Once you have modified your pet’s environment, you can modify her lifestyle as well.
• Light activity helps strengthen muscles, keeps ligaments and tendons flexible, prevents obesity and helps blood circulate to stiff joints.
• Make the exercise as positive an experience as possible by including lots of petting and affection. Watch for signs of exhaustion or pain, and stop if you notice any discomfort.
• Keep your pet on a healthy diet. Obesity increases stress on an animal’s joints and makes it harder for them to move.  Arthritis patients do well on high quality diets, fed in controlled portions.
Your veterinarian will know which treatments are best for your pet. Most importantly, try not to get discouraged.  As you spend time caring for a pet with arthritis, you may find your bond
actually increasing. Your energetic, playful friendship may eventually be replaced with the joy of a gentle, caring life together.

One Comment

  • Judy Wilson says:

    Thanks for informing me how I can make life more comfortable for my dog with arthritis. He’s been having joint pain for the past year, so I’ve been trying to find different ways to make him feel more comfortable at home. You made an interesting point about how light activity will help to strengthen muscles, so I’ll try to take him on more short walks to improve blood circulation to his joints.

Leave a Reply