Feeling a bit stiff and sore on these cold mornings? Got a bit of a limp and finding those steps just a bit harder than you used to? That’s exactly how many of our pets are feeling on these cold winter mornings due to the subtle but very common effects of arthritis.
Unfortunately for our best friends, they can’t tell us about that troublesome knee or hip. It’s up to us to interpret their slight changes in their mobility and take some steps to alleviate their discomfort and keep them as active and healthy as possible. Many people expect their dogs or cats to make whimpering or howling noises if they were in pain but that is hardly ever the case.
Just like in humans, arthritis can be well managed in pets with a combination of medication, weight control and balanced exercise, which can greatly improve your pet's quality of life. There is a wide range of treatments available to prevent, and reduce the debilitating effects of arthritis. Once an accurate diagnosis is made we can then individually tailor an arthritis management plan for your pet.
Here's a simple list of things to look out for that may indicate your pet could be in pain and suffering from arthritis:
- Difficulty getting up, stiffness or limping, particularly after sleep or resting.
- Hesitation/difficulty jumping up or climbing stairs
- Taking a long time to lay or sit down and get comfortable.
- Reduced exercise or a tendency to lag behind on walks, despite being very keen initially to go out on their walks.
- Favouring/lifting a leg while walking, yet happily running on it when distracted.
- Difficulty crouching to go to the toilet, shaking and shivering in their hind legs.
- Slight behavioural changes, snapping when picked up or being grumpy in general.
General lifestyle changes
Keeping your pets warm during the cooler months with extra bedding, dog rugs and enclosed kennels can make a big difference in lessening the discomfort associated with arthritis. Continuing with daily activity is also important, albeit a little less appealing, on those cold winter mornings.
Even small changes in a pet’s weight can have significant effects on their activity and general comfort. Many of us over feed our pets without even realizing we are doing so and over time they become overweight and much more prone to arthritis as well as other diseases such as diabetes, heart and respiratory problems, just as humans do.
Plenty of evidence shows that the addition of Omega 3’s and 6’s, as are found in a variety of fish oils are very beneficial for optimising joint health. We have a variety of products available that you can add to your pet’s food that provide them with these. Just ask our friendly nursing staff. Sasha’s blend® and Pernease® are powder supplements containing glucosamine, Omega 3 fatty acids and Green Lipped Muscle extracts that can be added to your pets food daily. For some animals, this can make a noticeable difference to their comfort. At Wauchope Vets we also stock a full range of scientifically proven, prescription, vet only pet foods of which there are several that are specifically formulated for pets with arthritis.
For those pets that are more severely affected by arthritis, we may prescribe medical therapy. Cartrophen® is a course of injections given weekly for 4-6 weeks and is very beneficial to the joints cartilage. The injections slow down and prevent the breakdown of the joint cartilage and promote healthier less painful joints. Non- steroidal anti-inflammatories are a group of drugs that offer potent pain relief to pets suffering pain and discomfort. They are prescription only medications and can only be prescribed by your veterinarian. The frequency with which these are given varies greatly depending on the severity of the arthritis, age and general health and so continued therapy requires regular health monitoring checkups for advice on dosage frequency. Examples of such medications include Previcox®, Rimadyl®, Carprofen® and Metacam® to name a few.
In summary, we hate seeing older dogs put down simply because they have become too debilitated and weak. If these pets could talk I imagine they would be crying out for some basic pain relief and that is the least we can, and should do for our best friends. It’s very satisfying for us to see a pet regain their joy for life and bounce around like a puppy once we start them on some appropriate treatment for their arthritis.