Does your older dog seem to be slowing down a bit? Does your kitty not jump onto higher objects like she used to do? If so, your pet may be suffering from arthritis. May is National Arthritis Month. Fully 1 in 5 dogs suffer from arthritis which goes up to 4-5 geriatrics (over 7). That means there are a LOT of animals suffering. What might you see in a pet with arthritis? The most obvious is limping, but many dogs have multiple joints affected, so most often you will not see that. In both dogs and cats, decreased sociability is frequently seen. Your pet might not rush the door as quickly when you come home, or might not like to be petted as much. You might also notice your pet licking or hair loss over a joint. So, what can you do to help your pet live as pain-free a life as possible?
Like with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Much like people, obesity is a BIG (😊) problem. Every day I see pets who are not only overweight, but even morbidly obese. This sets them up for so many health issues, one of which is joint problems, including arthritis. One way that you can help keep your pet’s weight down, as well as directly improving joint health, is regular exercise. For some this can be a bit more difficult once the outdoor thermometer starts climbing, but there are still options. Like with people, exercising early or late in the day keeps them from direct sun. Down here in Florida, many of us have or have access to pools. Swimming is an excellent activity for dogs, especially those overweight. But if you are in FL, stick to the pools. I can’t recommend swimming in any freshwater sources, where you might interrupt those exercising gators!
Another preventative to try to slow or help stave off arthritis is in the form of joint supplements or diets that contain various herbal and omega fatty acids. It is recommended to start at-risk breeds, which includes all large breed dogs, dachshunds, etc., before any symptoms of arthritis appear.
Prevention is great for our younger pets, but what can you do if your pet is already showing some of the symptoms I mentioned above? Again, weight control, exercise, and joint supplements/ joint diets can help tremendously. Additionally, there are several medications available to dogs. One word of caution – please DO NOT use OTC pain medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen). They can cause serious side effects. You can find doggie aspirin on the shelf at a local store, but please talk to your vet about better options. In many cases, there are some treatments available at a comparable cost. For those who do not want to medicate their pet, or other health concerns means the pets medication options are very limited, consider therapeutic laser treatments. Class 4 therapeutic lasers use light energy to help combat inflammation and pain. For more information about laser therapy, see http://www.litecure.com/companion/for-pet-owners/common-questions/
Arthritic kitties do have most of the treatment options available to dogs, except for some of the medications. Also, don’t forget your non-traditional pets! Rabbits, birds, reptiles all get arthritis as well. Like with cats and dogs, there are options to help them feel more comfortable.
If you feel your pet might be suffering from arthritis, or would like more information on prevention, please call for an appointment.
Angela Bockelman, DVM, PhD