Have you noticed that your cat has stopped jumping up or down from their favourite high spot? Is your dog reluctant to go for long walks or go down the stairs? Is there a limp now and then when your pet over-does it? These can all be signs that your pet has arthritis, a painful condition that can affect any joint in the body or the spine.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a degeneration of the joints’ shock absorber, the cartilage, and inflammation of the joint and surrounding tissues. Arthritis can be caused by genetics, autoimmune diseases such at Rheumatoid Arthritis, injury or just wear and tear as your pet ages. Up to 60% of our pets develop arthritis over their lifetimes.
How Can I Stop My Pet from Getting Arthritis?
The best way to prevent or help to treat arthritis is to control your pet’s weight. Extra weight leads to arthritis in two ways. First, if your pet is overweight, their joints have the extra work and wear and tear of carrying the added kilos. Secondly, it has been found that fat puts out pro-inflammatory mediators that can cause joint damage.
Just as in humans, exercise and diet are the keys to weight control. Exercise also keeps the joints moving and keeps the muscles around the joints strong, so that they can support the motion of the joint.
For dogs not yet experiencing any arthritis discomfort, the best form of exercise is good long walks and runs at the park. Dogs who are already experiencing arthritis pain will find swimming or using an underwater treadmill are ideal forms of exercise. The water takes your dog’s weight and allows the joints and muscles to move and work with less pain. For dogs at any stage, achieving and maintaining a good body weight is critical. Doing so will go a long way to preventing arthritis if it hasn’t already started, and to alleviating symptoms if your dog already has some arthritis.
If you want help in getting your dog to an appropriate weight, we can help with choosing a diet and establishing good portions and schedules for feeding.
Getting cats moving can be a challenge. Cats are usually less excited about water activities 😉 , so playing with them and getting them to hunt their food around the house helps to get them in motion. Try providing toys such as sponge balls and plastic springs that your cat will chase around your home on their own. There are also any number of cat teasers available that you can use to have a rousing game with your cat.
One of the best approaches is to make your cat “hunt” for their food. Cats are natural hunters. In addition to the extra calories they burn, they enjoy the stimulation of working for their food. Various “puzzle ball” type feeders are available on our webstore or at pet stores. You fill these balls with measured amounts of kibble and let your cat work to get each one out. You can also try moving the food bowls around the house, or just putting small amounts of kibble in different places.
Again, if you want help in getting your cat to an appropriate weight, we can help with choosing a diet and establishing good portions and schedules for feeding.
Joint Protectant Agents
If your cat or dog already has degenerative joint disease or arthritis, there is pain and inflammation involved. The key to getting them moving is to cut the pain. There are various joint protectant agents available, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, green lipped mussel and Omega Three Fatty Acids. Joint protectant agents promote production of joint fluid, the lubricant that lets the cartilages slide over one another. Not all these products are created equal. There is no federal regulation of their production, so the quality and dosage of the products varies greatly. Please ask for veterinary advice before using them.
To make your life easier there are joint support diets available through veterinarians that incorporate therapeutic levels of these products.
One note about products with shark cartilage in them: shark cartilage it doesn’t do anything except kill the shark. Please leave the cartilage in the shark. Shark populations have enough challenges without being needlessly sacrificed for bogus “remedies”.
Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are the main stay of arthritis care. For humans, this class of drugs includes acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Advil). None of these are very safe for dogs and they are especially life threatening for cats. Newer improved NSAIDs have been approved for use in our pets. All NSAIDs can have potential side-effects on your pet’s liver and kidneys, so before going on any of these medications your pet will need to have a blood test to be sure the liver and kidneys are functioning properly. If they are to stay on the NSAID, regular blood work will be prescribed to monitor the safety of these drugs for your pet.
Laser therapy is a non-invasive, pleasurable way for your pet to get relief from arthritis pain. Both dogs and cats benefit from these treatments and we see substantial results for both species.
If you think your pet has arthritis please book a consultation with one of our veterinarians. They can recommend x-rays for diagnosis and prescribe treatment to help your pet get out of pain and on with their life.