Arthritis & Senior Pet Care
Updated: Jul 2
Osteoarthritis is often seen in older pets. Noticing the symptoms and treating early is key in keeping your pet pain-free.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease described as a break down in the body's cushioning and lubrication function of the joints. Without functional cushioning and lubrication the joint components are poorly protected and long-term damage can be sustained.
Signs to look for in dogs
• Limping, especially the day after a large bout of exercise. Activity now, pain later is the usual indicator of arthritis.
• Difficulty getting up or stiff after periods of rest
• Change in behaviour
• A dislike of being touched
• Increased or decreased sleep
Signs to look for in cats
Cats are better at hiding their pain and discomfort than dogs. Here are some signs to look for:
• Decreased grooming
• Reluctance to jump
• Inability to jump as high as before
• Urinating or soiling outside the litter box
• Increased or decreased sleep
• Avoiding human interaction
• Dislike of being stroked or brushed
How Arthritis Develops
1. ONSET: A 'trigger' such as trauma to the joint, incorrect joint alignment, or a genetic pre-disposition causes a disruption to the normal cellular production of healthy cartilage leading to stiffening of the cartilage.
2. DAMAGE TO JOINT CARTILAGE: The stiff and brittle cartilage loses its compressive ability resulting in surface cracks and an excessive degradation of cartilage. The joint can no longer bear weight as effectively, nor facilitate frictionless movement leading to damage to the underlying bone.
3. INFLAMMATORY RESPONSE: As the cartilage begins to break off the immune system is triggered. The resulting inflammatory response causes pain and swelling in the joints in an attempt to immobilise the animal and protect the joint from further damage.
Unfortunately, it is often not until this third stage that your pet will show clinical signs of osteoarthritis.
My pet has these symptoms, now what?
Contact us as soon as possible, osteoarthritis can be diagnosed by your veterinarian.
Treatment is affordable and effective and acting early will limit the damage to your pets joints and in turn, less expense.
The Ark Veterinary Surgery uses a combination of glucosamine & fish oil as first-line treatment, then proceeding to disease-modifying osteoarthritis injections (Zydax) which effectively work at slowing and repairing the joint damage. We use non-steriodal anti-inflammatories and heavier pain-relief drugs only after these first-line treatments are being utilised. This limits damage to other organs and has better long-term health prospects for your pet.
Ensure your pet has soft, warm bedding in a sheltered area free from draughts - cold weather exaggerates arthritis symptoms. Providing rugs or non-slip coverings in walkways will prevent slips and falls. Elevate food and water bowls for dogs and put bowls on the floor for cats.
What has caused my pet to get osteoarthritis?
Genetics, age, size, excess weight, joint trauma or short, sharp exercise can all increase the risk of your pet developing osteoarthritis.
Around 50% of cases can be relative to genetics or breed disposition with German Shepherds, Labradors, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers and mixed breeds being the most common breeds developing joint disease or abnormalities. (Source: Parnell).
Inheritable disorders like luxating patellas or hip dysplasia can also lead to osteoarthritis.
The other 50% of cases are the factors which can be changed. Weight is the most influential of these factors - excess weight puts added strain on the joints. Getting your pet within their ideal weight range will lower pain and the risk of further damage. We know it's easier said than done to say no to those puppy dog eyes while you're eating, so we can help with a diet plan with your next visit (regardless of what food you feed your pet).
The short, sharp exercises to avoid include chasing balls/frisbees, running up and down fence lines or sand dunes - any exercise that is uncontrolled and incorporates stop-start movements. The ligaments which maintain stability in these joints are often torn while doing these range of exercises.
Could my dog have arthritis =? Click the link below to take the quiz:
Things to look for when your pet turns 7
Pets are considered seniors once they reach 7 years of age. Their care will change as they age and some common things that may help the transition include:
• Soft, warm bedding in a sheltered area free from draughts
• Aids for dogs such as ramps, non-slip mats or rugs on slippery surfaces to assist with gripping
• Scratching posts placed strategically below those high places your senior cat likes to hide, like cupboards, will provide a gentle landing position.
• Keeping their weight within the ideal weight range
• Maintaining daily activity. At least 30 minutes of activity a day if they can manage it. If they stop on their walk they're telling you something. Activity will help maintain muscles which assist in mobility.
• Give your cat ping pong balls to play with and if they are food-driven, hide tid bits around the house in different positions to get them moving
• Frequent check ups with a veterinarian.
• Knowing the signs of disease or discomfort.
Click the links below to see the signs of disease to be aware of in your senior pet: