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No Bones About It: Dealing with Arthritis in Pets

Have you noticed that your cat or dog isn’t jumping, pouncing, running, or moving the way they once used to? Despite how energetic they may feel at heart, some animals’ bodies give out after being put under constant stress or movement. It’s no shock considering how dynamic and active animals have become, whether it’s cats climbing trees or dogs going on long hikes with their owner. But sometimes it can lead to joint pain and arthritis - a condition that even people have become all too familiar with.

Seeing your pet experience the discomfort that comes with arthritis isn’t easy, but learning about the condition, its symptoms, and what can be done to prevent and treat it is the best way to keep them as healthy and lively as they can be.

What is arthritis, and what causes it?

Arthritis refers to the abnormal changes of joints, including pain, stiffness, swelling, or decreased mobility. In between joints is flexible tissue called cartilage, as well as fluid. The cartilage protects the bones by preventing them from rubbing against each other. However, as time passes, it often wears down. When the cartilage doesn’t heal properly or is completely worn away, it leads to the joint pain that your pet may be experiencing.

The two types of arthritis are developmental and degenerative. Developmental arthritis means that the bones are not developed correctly, whether it be underdeveloped or overdeveloped. This is what leads to conditions such as hip dysplasia. More often people and pets experience degenerative arthritis, which is when the body’s cartilage wears down over time or doesn’t have enough fluid.

Animals of any age can suffer from this health condition, though it most commonly occurs in older, overweight, or larger pets.

Symptoms

Signs of arthritis may start off as subtle, but as time progresses, it will become more and more apparent. If your companion is suffering from joint issues, they’ll likely show it, as it’s hard to hide the discomfort. Be attentive of the following symptoms:

  • Limping
  • Moving slowly (such as when walking)
  • Hesitating to do physical activity
  • Only doing physical activity for short amounts of time
  • Refusal to go up and down stairs
  • Swelling of joints
  • Licking joints
  • Difficulty standing
  • Irritability
  • Depression

If your pet does in fact show any of these signs, bring your canine or feline to the veterinarian and voice your concerns. They may diagnose your companion by performing blood work, a biopsy, or physical examination. 

Prevention

Arthritis may be a very common problem, but making early changes in your pet’s lifestyle to prevent it from happening can make a huge difference. By actively making choices with your furry friend’s health in mind, you can delay them from experiencing joint pain and uncomfortable symptoms of arthritis. 

  1. Nutritious Diet - Nothing is more important than selecting a diet option that provides your pet with all the needed proteins, fats, and carbohydrates they need for energy and an improved immune system. But also remember that cats and dogs all have very different dietary requirements when you factor in age, breed, size, and activity level. For example, a puppy requires food that supports a healthy rate of growth and bone development since a quicker rate can prove harmful. Portion control is also very important in your pet’s diet. Overfeeding your dog or cat can lead to an unhealthy amount of weight gain that puts excess stress on their joints. In addition, you may want to consider asking your veterinarian about using supplements in their diet or a food that supports joint health and mobility.
  2. Exercise - Providing your dog with a variety of gentle exercises ensures that they are promoting the consistent development and conditioning of their muscles and bones. It helps to strengthen their body, and actually increases the amount of natural lubrication that goes into their joints. Exercise and play actually proves to be beneficial in most cases so long as the pet is not being pushed too hard or for too long considering their current status of joint health. While cats are more limited in types of exercise in contrast to dogs, encouraging them to play and use toys is another form of incorporating movement into their day.
  3. Household Changes - Making a few changes in your companion’s environment can improve the way they use their joints on a daily basis. For instance, invest in a high quality pet bed. A bed with just the right padding or bolsters will give your pet’s limbs the support they need. You may also want to introduce ramps for cars and couches, yoga or foam mats where your pet steps often, etc. 
  • Vet Visits - Taking your pet to the vet at least twice a year will ensure that they’ll catch it early on if your pet does have arthritis. You won’t waste time and can immediately start forming a game plan with your veterinarian for how to relieve their discomfort and improve their condition. They can also provide you with more tips on how to prevent them from developing it.
  • Although there is no cure for arthritis in pets, there is always something that can be done to manage the condition. Always be attentive of any warning signals that your dog or cat may be experiencing joint pain, and partner with your veterinarian to find the best plan for how to prevent the issue or treat it. Your companion, with or without arthritis, can live life unhindered if you take steps now to ease their discomfort or do what you can to avert it.


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