Arthritis is a common issue in aging dogs and cats. It can be the result of an inherited joint abnormality, a previous injury or just wear and tear over the pet’s lifetime. Signs that your pet may be suffering from osteoarthritis include: limping, stiffness while walking, difficulty getting up or laying down and reluctance to move or exercise. Some animals may also become more irritable and may react aggressively if the sore area is touched or moved.
Since cats are more lightweight their arthritis is usually less severe and appears later in life. It may be difficult to see the signs of arthritis in your cat as they often have less active lifestyles and do not to show signs of pain as clearly as dogs. If you suspect your pet has arthritis he/she should be seen by a veterinarian for assessment and discussion of ways to manage the symptoms.
One very important recommendation is to keep pets with osteoarthritis as lean and fit as possible. This is because less excess weight means less stress on the joints. Joint supplements can help decrease the signs of osteoarthritis. In some cases different types of supplements can be used together to create a greater effect. These are natural products and tend to be very safe, however using the correct dose and correct product is important. Some natural products can be toxic to animals so supplements should be used only under the guidance of your veterinarian.
Pain medications can also be prescribed by a veterinarian to help with soreness and stiffness. The most commonly used pain medications are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) which help with both pain and inflammation. It is very important not to give your dog or cat any human pain relievers such as Aspirin, Tylenol or Advil as these can be toxic and even fatal. Depending on the age of your pet, their health status and how often they need pain medication bloodwork may be recommended before starting medication and then repeated on a yearly basis. This is to ensure that it is safe to medicate your pet and that the chosen pain reliever is the most effective and safest option for them.
Just because your senior pet has osteoarthritis does not mean they need to live in pain or be unable to have a normal lifestyle. By working together with your veterinarian it is possible to give your dog or cat with arthritis a better quality of life into their golden years.