Aching arthritis

Arthritis is a common disease which can affect animals at any age but is usually seen in our "oldies", and clinical signs are often exacerbated by chilly winter weather.

The majority of joints have a smooth layer of cartilage covering the ends of the bones and there is also "lubrication" within the joints, called synovial fluid.  Arthritis occurs when, for whatever reason, the cartilage becomes damaged or worn to the point where bone is rubbing on bone with no cushioning, causing pain and inflammation.  Also the synovial fluid may lose some of its effectiveness and the lubrication in the joint is lessened.  Arthritis is commonly seen in the hips, elbows, stifles, hocks and shoulders, but it can affect other joints, including the spine.

Signs of arthritis in cats and dogs can include:

  • Trouble getting up in the morning
  • Limping
  • A reluctance to walk, climb or jump
  • Declined activity and/or sleeping more
  • Restlessness, or finding it hard to get comfortable
  • Lagging behind on a walk
  • Painful to touch/handle or aggression
  • Licking at a joint
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Loss of appetite

Managing arthritis often requires a multi-factorial approach:

  • Weight control.  Arthritis is worsened by carrying excess weight, so it is important to feed an appropriate diet and to not over-feed.

  • Exercise.  Moderate activity will strengthen muscles, keep ligaments and tendons flexible and help keep joints moving.  Swimming can be ideal in some cases as a "low-impact" form of exercise.

  • Dietary supplements.  Joint health supplements can include glucosamine, chondroitin and green lipped muscle extract and are safe to use in most patients.

  • Prescription medications.  There are many options available including anti-inflammatories and drugs for the relief of chronic pain.  Your vet will decide upon an appropriate pain management protocol and please be sure to not ever give human medications to your pet before speaking with your vet.
  • Acupuncture. This is quite a painless procedure and has shown to be effective in some cases.

  • Environmental changes.  Be sure to make your pet's favourite sleeping place easily accessible and consider raising their food and water bowls slightly.  Magnetic underlays, coats and collars may be of use. Padded beds that are warm, out of the cold, damp and draught are also of benefit. 

Unfortunately there is no cure for arthritis but by getting onto things early so that further damage is prevented or slowed, and by reducing pain and inflammation, you can make your pets life easier and more comfortable.

Pop in and see us to check out our large array of "winter woollies", to help keep your pet warm and cosy this winter.