Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) affects our pets just as it affects each of us, causing pain and thickening of joints as cartilage and connective tissue deteriorate. Whether due to age or the result of an injury, the condition can make it difficult for our dogs and cats to walk, run, jump, and even just get up from a sitting position.
Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize when our pets are in pain but considering that arthritis can develop in dogs and cats at any age, it’s important to understand some signs, how you can help slow the progression, and what you can do to help manage it.
Signs of arthritis in your pet
Osteoarthritis is a common ailment for dogs and cats alike, especially as they age, but diagnosis is spotty, especially with cats. Among dogs, 20% to 25 % are diagnosed during their lifetime, but it’s likely 60% suffer from arthritis in at least one joint. Cats are diagnosed even less because of their high tolerance for pain, but it is estimated that up to 90% will suffer from arthritis pain as they age to 12 years and older.
In both dogs and cats, if you notice the following, they may be experiencing arthritis pain:
- Difficulty getting up to a standing position
- Lameness or walking stiffly
- Sudden reluctance to move, jump, or go up and down stairs
- Yelping when touched or an aversion to being touched in a certain part of the body
- Behavioral changes, including irritability or aggression
Dogs may also lick or bite at a joint that is bothering them. Cats may become unable to leap to their favorite perch or they may begin hiding.
In general, if your pet seems to be slowing down or appears more tired than usual, it’s a good idea to have your veterinarian check him for signs of arthritis.
What you can do
There is no cure for arthritis but just like humans, there are ways to lessen and manage the pain and swelling that comes with the disease. Lessen the discomfort and your pet is likely to stay more active, which prevents some of the stiffness that inevitably comes with arthritis.
- Weight control – Some causes of arthritis are outside our control, such as genetics or age, but obesity – a major cause of stress on the joints that can lead to arthritis – is one to get after. Your vet can advise you on the ideal weight for your pet and suggest dietary options if your pet is overweight.
- Exercise – If you allow your pet to lie around, those sore, swollen joints will get stiff and make it even harder to move. Even a short walk for your dog or five minutes of play for your cat will make a big difference in their comfort and mobility.
- Supplements – Just as for humans, anti-inflammatory supplements, including omega-3 fatty acids, can help keep some of the swelling at bay. Be sure to consult your vet about supplements that have been tested and shown to be effective for dogs and cats.
- Pain therapy – Acupuncture, laser therapy, hydrotherapy, medications, and CBD have all been suggested to help your pet deal with the pain that comes with arthritis. Your vet can recommend an appropriate regimen for your pet based on his or her breed, age, and condition.
Depending on the cause of your pet’s arthritis, surgery may also be an option to ease the symptoms and progression of the disease.
If you believe your pet is suffering from osteoarthritis, contact the veterinarians at Lake Cable Animal Hospital. Our team can provide guidance and treatment that will keep your pet feeling his or her best.