Arthritis is a progressive disease caused by the swelling and inflammation of the joints. Although sadly there is no cure, with careful management most pets can live comfortably for many years after diagnosis.
As well as giving any medications prescribed by your vet, there are a number of things you can easily do at home to help keep your arthritic pet comfortable. We spoke to our vet team to find out more about arthritis and how we can help manage it in our pets.
What are the symptoms of Arthritis?
Arthritis is very common in older pets – since the condition of their joints deteriorates over time – but it can also occur in younger animals that suffer from bone development issues (such as hip or elbow dysplasia) or have had an injury.
Common symptoms include:
- Lameness or limping
- Stiffness – particularly when getting up in the mornings
- Reluctance to jump up, play or go for walks
- Swollen joints
- Frequent licking and chewing around the affected joints
If you notice any of these signs, it is a good idea to contact your vet for a check-up.
Home care tips for Arthritis
Ensuring your pet maintains a healthy weight is vital to managing arthritis. Not only does carrying excess weight put additional strain on the already inflamed joints, the compounds found within fat tissue itself can cause an increased inflammatory response, worsening the disease. Attending a weight clinic with a veterinary nurse will help keep your pet’s weight loss on track.
Unless your vet advises otherwise, it is essential to provide regular gentle exercise for your pet. Avoid playing chasing games where your pet makes sudden turns, as this puts excessive pressure on their joints. Lying down for long periods of time will increase stiffness, so encourage your pet to move about little and often.
“There are lots of small easy steps we can make to improve our pet’s quality of life, along with the use of supplements and medications if appropriately prescribed by a vet.” - Lucy Burman, Head Veterinary Nurse at Mayhew
Diet and Supplements
There are a huge number of mobility diets and supplements out there, of varying quality, so it is a good idea to ask your vet for advice when choosing a diet or supplement for your pet to make sure that the product you are buying is from a reputable company. Most diets and supplements are safe to use alongside your pet’s medication, but it is always better to check with your vet first.
Adapting your home
Providing a soft well-padded bed will help to take the pressure off your pet’s joints while they are resting. The bed should be large enough for your pet to stretch out, with low sides, so that they can get in and out of it easily. Pets with arthritis are also more at risk of falling on slippery surfaces, so creating pathways on wooden or tile flooring using rugs can help to avoid injuries.
Steps can also be hazardous for arthritic pets, not only due to the risk of falling, but also because of the strain of repeatedly climbing up and down stairs. Minimising access to stairs, as well as controlling and supporting going up and down are essential for preventing repetitive trauma.
Lucy, our Head Veterinary Nurse, told us: “Arthritis is a disease process we see so commonly in practice. Many people think it’s just a natural progression and there’s nothing we can do to help but this isn’t true. Often we see owners that are shocked by the difference small changes have made, turning their wobbly old dog back in to a puppy again!”