Colder weather brings with it the temptation to be less active outdoors for both owners and their pets. On a freezing cold morning, you can be forgiven for wanting to stay in bed a little longer. Even our pets enjoy sleeping in. But if your normally energetic dog has become less than enthusiastic about their morning run, it could be a sign of sore joints.
Arthritis is a disease that can sneak up on your pet. The signs are very subtle and differ considerably between dogs and cats. They can’t speak for themselves so it’s up to you as a responsible pet owner to watch out for the non-verbal clues.
These signs are the most common:
- Difficulty jumping in to the car, up on furniture or climbing stairs
- Stiffness, especially in the morning
- Difficulty getting up or lying down. You may notice your dog slowly lower himself down
- Reluctance to walk, play or chase the ball
- Sleeping or resting more
- Less excited to greet you, lethargic and less interactive
- Sleeping more
- Weight gain
- Hesitating when jumping up or down from your lap or from the furniture
- Ungraceful landing when jumping down
- Reluctance to climb the fence or climb trees
- Withdrawn, less interactive
- Reluctance to move freely in and out of cat flap or even the litter box
- Matted or scruffy coat from not grooming well due to pain
- Nails may not wear down as quickly due to less activity
All these signs are common symptoms of arthritis. It doesn’t discriminate for age or breed and don’t assume your pet is too young to experience it. Arthritis is one of the most common chronic pain conditions in animals that we treat.
What causes arthritis?
Arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, affects the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of bones on moveable joints. This cartilage provides a soft surface to help the joint, such as the knee, move comfortably
Wear and tear on joints, injury, infection, defects such as hip dysplasia, stress from excess weight and immune diseases can all lead to cartilage damage. This initiates arthritis and as the disease progresses the cartilage becomes worn and the ends of bones rub together. Ouch! Just like in humans, this causes your pet considerable pain.
There is plenty we can do to slow the progression of arthritis and help your pet live a pain free life. It’s important we rule out any other problems so a consultation with us is the first step. We can then discuss a suitable treatment plan for your furry friend and if medication, such as anti-inflammatories or nutritional supplements, is needed.
How you can help
- Keep your pet’s weight in a healthy range to reduce the load their joints have to bear.
- Provide a warm, dry and comfortable place to sleep in, up off the floor and away from draughts. Good padding is essential.
- If possible, reduce the number of stairs your pet must climb. Install a ramp or make your own if you’re a DIY-er!
- Exercise your pet in moderation. Gentle daily walks for dogs help keep the joints moving and muscles toned.