Winter aches and pains are not confined to humans. Like humans, many pets suffer arthritis and muscle pain as they age, particularly as the colder weather draws in. Arthritis is, in fact, one of the most common ailments seen in older pets, causing changes in affected joints that can be extremely painful, yet few pet owners know that much to can be done to alleviate their suffering.
How do I know if the pains are arthritis?
There are several signs to look out for:
You pet may limp or favour one or more leg. The limp may seem worse in the morning but becomes less noticeable as your pet moves around and ‘warms up’.
* Difficulty moving
Arthritic cats may suddenly stop jumping onto high areas they used to love and dogs might not want to go for a run, take the stairs or jump into the car. This is your pet’s way of saying “I’m in pain”.
* Spinal issues
Arthritis can also occur in the spine so look for abnormal posture, lameness in a hind leg or a neck or back that is sore to the touch.
Your pet may tire more easily. Arthritic pets often spend more time sleeping or resting.
If a usually gentle-natured dog or cat suddenly starts snapping or biting when approached or handled it may indicate sore joints.
* Muscle atrophy
Arthritic pets often develop muscle atrophy or dying off of the muscle tissue due to inactivity and decreased use of the muscles. A pet with atrophied muscles will have a leg that looks thinner than the others
* Licking, chewing and biting
Sometimes a pet will suddenly lick, chew or bite at a leg or area of the spine for no apparent reason. This may be an attempt to ease arthritic pain.
Arthritis can be particularly hard to spot in cats. Many arthritic cats simply become less active, a change in behaviour an owner may interpret as ‘normal’ for an older cat whereas the cat may be decreasing his activity level because he is in pain.
How to treat arthritis
Though it cannot be cured, there are various remedies and procedures that can help ease the pain. These include pet-safe anti-inflammatories and joint supplements to strengthen diseased joints. Your veterinarian may recommend a blood test to check your pet’s kidney and liver function before prescribing anti-inflammatories.
- Supplementation: There are several joint supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin and Omega 3 fatty acids to maximise cartilage regeneration and protection and provide pain relief. Available at EberVet Vetshops.
- Exercise: Maintaining mobility through reasonable, gentle exercise is important regardless of a dog’s age and the extent of the arthritis. Ask your vet to recommend an appropriate level of exercise for your dog.
- Nutrition: Specially-formulated pet foods, available from vets or through EberVet Vetshops, can actively aid mobility and support joint health.
- Medication: Your vet may prescribe a pet-friendly anti-inflammatory. Never give your pet human pain medication. Ibuprofen, for example, is toxic to dogs and Panado can kill a cat.
- Warmth: Ensure your pet has a warm bed – day or night. Pets might have fur but they still feel the cold and keeping arthritic joints warm helps to ease the pain.
- Regular checkups: All pets should have an annual veterinary checkup, and more frequently as they age. Catching any ailment in its early stages not only helps to ease your pet’s pain, it also cuts back on future medical bills.
Article by Dr Renée Perold, veterinarian at EberVet Pet Clinic, Strand.