Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that reduces quality of life in our pets by hampering their agility and making the simplest of movements painful. If you have pets, especially elderly pets, it’s important to know the signs of arthritis as well as available treatment options. 

Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis that occurs when the cartilage in joints breaks down, allowing bones to rub together. Approximately 20% of adult dogs1 and 90% of cats2 over the age of 12 suffer from arthritis. While it can occur in young pets, it’s most prevalent in middle-aged and senior pets. Susceptibility depends on several factors including age, breed, size, nutrition, injury, weight, and genetics. Several factors including inflammation, muscle fatigue and strain, and tissue damage cause arthritic pain.   

Signs of arthritis in your pet can range from subtle to obvious and can include:

  • Depression
  • Lack of interest in play
  • Stiff gait or limping
  • Wincing or yelping with certain movements
  • Slow to rise
  • Refusal to jump or climb
  • Lack of appetite
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Swollen joints
  • Aggression when touched/handled
  • Refusal to groom

Osteoarthritis has no cure and has the potential to cause chronic discomfort and pain; but it can be treated and managed effectively. If you suspect your pet suffers from arthritis, make an appointment with your veterinarian and get a proper diagnosis. Work with your veterinarian to formulate a treatment and pain management plan that may include dietary changes, physical therapy, laser therapy, and medication or supplements. 

Additionally, there are several ways to ease your pet’s discomfort at home. 

Keep pets at a healthy weight. Extra pounds put strain on joints, make movement more difficult, and can increase inflammation and pain.

Practice daily low-impact exercise. For dogs, this can be easy walking or swimming while avoiding jumping and lots of running. Play with cats in a manner that keeps them low to the ground using laser pointers or rod and reel type toys for stalking or chase games.

Make your pet’s space and belongings as comfortable and easily accessible as possible. Provide soft, heftily padded bedding. Use self-warming pads or pet-specific heating pads (only under supervision) to keep muscles warm and soothed. Use front-entry litter boxes with low sides for easy access. Keep beds, food and water, and litter pans downstairs and within easy reach. Elevate food and water dishes for tall dogs. Use ramps for easy access to furniture and boxes or steps to help cats access their favorite windowsills.

Arthritis is a common condition in pets that can leave them suffering from pain, immobility, and depression. The first step in battling arthritis is recognizing the signs of pain or discomfort and seeking help from your veterinarian. By devising and following a treatment plan, you can greatly reduce an arthritic pet’s pain and increase their quality of life.  



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