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Arthritis… a silent disease

Arthritis… a silent disease

It’s that time of the year again, the clocks have been set back and it seems to be getting colder and darker by the day. As we approach winter you may start to notice that your pets, especially the older ones, are starting to slow down. It’s probably just that it’s cold and they are getting old right…or is there more to it?

Winter is a common time for people to notice the symptoms of arthritis. Arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), is a painful condition that affects the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of the bones in a joint. Normally this cartilage would act to provide a smooth surface for bones to move against each other in a joint – a normal pain free movement. DJD is when these normal cartilage layers becomes worn, meaning that the ends of the bones become exposed and as a result rub against each other… ouch, how painful does that sound!!!

Our pets are extremely good at hiding signs of pain and decreased mobility, especially
our feline friends, but there are subtle clues to watch out for as our pets age, subtle signs of pain and decreased mobility.

Early detection of arthritis is the key to slowing the progression of the disease and
helping your pet live a pain free life, the ultimate aim in our profession, is to keep our patients healthy and maintaining a good quality of life.

Arthritis in Dogs

Dogs can be pretty stoic, good at putting on a brave face and a wagging tail so that they can continue to go on their daily walks. They most often will continue to run, jump and play, because this is what they live for!!

Aside from an obvious limp that is a known sign of pain, there are more subtle signs that we need to look out for:

  • Reduced mobility – does your pooch hesitate to jump into / out of the car or onto furniture, struggle up the stairs or even just to get up of a morning??
  • Reduced activity levels – reluctance to walk, run, play or chase the ball, sleeping more… generally appearance of lethargy. Does your pet not want to walk as far
    or seems sore after a long walk?
  • Difficulty getting up or laying – very common sign that people may just put down to an animal getting old.
  • Other signs – muscle loss, licking or chewing at joints, changed demeanour (less tolerant, may even growl due to pain), reduced interaction, increased
    anxiety/pacing/ unable to get comfy.

Arthritis in Cats:

Cats are relatively small and very agile they can hide or cover up mobility difficulties caused by arthritis. This is a survival tactic to prevent them from appearing vulnerable to predators. Unlike dogs, cats with arthritis don’t generally limp and their pain often goes unnoticed.

Is your cat hiding something? Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Reduced mobility- hesitant to jump up or down from your lap /furniture, a not so graceful landing when jumping down, reluctance to climb trees / fences, “missing” the litter box due to pain getting into / out of.
  • General demeanour changes – less tolerant and resents being picked up or
    moved, hissing / scratching or even biting when touched, less interactive.
  • Appearance – matty or scruffy coat as they are painful to turn and groom,
    overgrown nails as they are less active and not wearing them down as much.

So what can we do to help??

Unfortunately arthritis is a disease that cannot be cured, that is why the earlier it is recognised, the sooner we can put measures in place to slow down the progression of
the disease and control the pain, helping your pet leave a happy and comfortable life for as long as possible.

Vet Treatment for Arthritis

Treatment can include “arthritis injections” that help keep the joints healthy, anti-
inflammatory medications, joint supplements and prescription diets. Other forms of pain relief may also be needed in some cases. The earlier we start these treatments the more effective they will be at slowing down the degeneration of your pets joints.

What can you do at home?

  • Provide warmth – let your animal sleep inside when it is cold! Blankets and other sources of heat can also be used.
  • Provide cushioning – a nice comfy bed!
  • Maintain healthy body weight – keeping your animal in a lean condition can
    sometimes be enough to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis. Prescription diets
    can help reduce weight in overweight animals that have mobility issues.
  • Controlled exercise – shorter, more frequent walks are much better as long walks can lead to soreness and pain. Swimming is a great form of exercise for animals
    with arthritis as it is non weight bearing, taking the pressure of the joints whilst
    keeping them mobile and muscles active.
  • Avoid slippery floors – placing mats or rugs on tiled/ timber floors.
  • Raising food and water bowls will reduce the amount of effort needed to eat and drink.

If your pet is showing any of the signs described above, even if subtle, make an appointment for a free arthritis check. If we think arthritis is likely, we will discuss the treatment options available and help make a plan that is suitable for your pet, to ensure they are as comfortable as possible.

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