Arthritis is quite common in older animals and is exacerbated by cool, humid weather. Being overweight or having had joint surgery at some point in their life are recognised risk factors. Large breed dogs often develop arthritis at an earlier age than smaller breeds. The impact of arthritis on a pet’s quality of life can be significant, but there are management strategies available.
Clinical signs are often slow in onset, and not always obvious. In dogs, difficulty rising from a resting position, stiffness when walking (hobbling), difficulty with stairs or lagging behind on a walk are commonly noticed. Some dogs may also lick at arthritic joints. The signs in cats can be more subtle. Reduced mobility may seem an obvious one but can manifest as reduced activity, hesitation before jumping on or off raised surfaces (e.g. favourite sleeping place or the couch), toileting outside of the litter box and decreased grooming (often with matting over the lower back and hip area). Some cats may also seem uncharacteristically grumpy, a common sign of pain in this species.
Often simple changes around the home can improve day-to-day functioning for an arthritic pet. Ensuring easy access to bedding, food and water through minimising reliance on stairs and providing ramps can help. Bedding should be low to the ground and padded. Keeping joints warm is naturally soothing, so sleeping inside on cold nights, wearing a warm coat or providing heated bedding is required. Being overweight places undue strain on arthritic joints and we can help formulate a weight loss plan for pets carrying around a few extra kilos.
All pets with arthritis will find benefit in a targeted arthritis management program. This can come in various forms and what works for one pet may not work for another. Prescription diets provide natural components that ease joint inflammation and promote joint health. Pentosan injections can be given as 6-monthly courses and often provide ample relief for both dogs and cats. Nutritional supplements can work for some pets. There are several active ingredients used in supplements, with available formulations including chews, powders, capsules and granules. Arthritis pain can be particularly debilitating for some pets, with some needing to be placed on daily anti-inflammatories.
If you believe your pet could have signs of arthritis, we recommend a check-up and discussion of what management and treatment strategies may help.