It happens in stages. First, you notice that your pet takes a few moments to get out of bed in the morning. Then you notice they’re no longer charging ahead on walks the way they used to. Easy jumps have become a struggle, and you’re beginning to notice that your pet is suffering during normal activities.
Up to 90 percent of cats over 12 years old have arthritis, and a similar number of senior dogs suffer from it, too. It seems inevitable; if your pet lives to an old age, you’ll see some signs of pain and stiffness in at least one area of their body. While there’s no cure for arthritis once your pet shows signs of pain, there are ways to help them feel more limber for the rest of their life.
If you suspect your pet has arthritis, see a vet – this article is not a substitute for a diagnosis.
What Causes Arthritis?
There are two major types of arthritis: osteoarthritis, which is caused by normal wear and tear on the joints. As cartilage between the bones breaks down, your pet experiences painful swelling and stiffness. This is the most common type, typically affecting senior animals.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. In this case, your pet’s immune system attacks the joint tissue, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Sometimes, young pets are affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis, and will have it for the rest of their life.
While arthritis is not curable, physical therapy, pain medication and dietary changes can help your pet live a normal life.
Supplies and Tools For Pets With Arthritis
Every arthritic pet needs a bed that cushions their joints and makes it easy for them to get up in the morning. It should be firm enough that they do not sink through to the floor, yet soft enough to provide comfort. Thick memory foam beds are best; they retain heat, which can also ease pain.
If your pet has a reduced appetite, eating may be painful for them. Some cats and dogs may be in pain as they eat out of a bowl on the floor. Elevated feeders can help.
Arthritis can make your pet prone to slipping and falling – particularly, dogs. You can place carpets on slippery floors, and use Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips to help your dog create friction.
Ramps, steps and strategically placed cushions are great for pets who insist on jumping on the furniture, even if it’s painful for them to do so.
Natural And Medical Pain Management
Never, ever, ever use aspirin, Tylenol, or any type of human pain medication to treat your pet. These medications are formulated for humans. They can cause internal bleeding, even at seemingly appropriate doses.
Only your vet can prescribe a painkiller that is safe for your pet. Your vet will consider body condition, breed and medical history when they prescribe a medication and dosing. You simply cannot do this yourself.
You can use natural painkillers if your pet’s pain is very mild, or if you have asked your vet about using them in combination with other treatments. Natural treatments can negatively interact with prescribed medications, so always ask your vet!
Glucosamine-chondroitin supplements with Methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM) are commonly recommended for arthritic pets. However, there’s not much scientific evidence that they work. Even so, there’s anecdotal evidence that these supplements work for some pets. These supplements are typically safe, so it wouldn’t hurt to try them in combination with other treatments.
Raw chicken feet consist mainly of cartilage and naturally contain glucosamine. It’s always better to provide nutrients in a natural form, rather than a supplement. Both dogs and cats can eat chicken or duck feet (always raw, never cooked).
Fish oil is packed with omega-3s that reduce inflammation, and also suppresses the immune response that causes Rheumatoid arthritis. Tinned or raw, frozen sardines are also a great source of omega-3s.
Keep Your Pet On The Move
As you provide your pet with dietary supplements, be sure to deduct from their daily meals to avoid increasing their calorie intake. Overweight and obese pets are more likely to suffer from arthritis, and weight loss can help ease the stress on their joints.
Though your pet is slowing down, they should get gentle exercise each day. Your vet can recommend physical therapy options. Swimming is a low-impact activity that can help your pet burn calories without stressing their joints.
Have you had a pet with arthritis? What helped them the most?