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Tamworth Veterinary Hospital

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Arthritis in Your Pet

As the weather grows colder, many animals (not unlike people) who suffer from arthritis may really start to feel it.

Arthritis means ‘inflamed joints’. The joint fluid becomes thin and watery, the cartilage thins and looses its cushioning properties, and bone spurs form around the joint.

Arthritis occurs in animals for any number of reasons, ranging from injuries to ligaments and cartilage, through to simple wear and tear in older animals. Arthritis is made a lot worse in animals who don’t have regular exercise, as physical activity stimulates the production of joint fluid and keeps surrounding muscles and ligaments well toned. Animals which are overweight also suffer more with arthritis as there is increased stress on the joints and they tend not to exercise.

As animals can’t tell us how uncomfortable they are and can be very good at putting on a brave face, it is important for owners to recognize the signs of arthritic pain in their animals.

Dogs demonstrate stiffness and reluctance to walk, struggling to get up in the morning. Severely affected animals may go off their food and be quite down in the dumps refusing to move.

Cats are more difficult to read than dogs and for this reason many older cats endure arthritis pain unnecessarily. Signs which can tip an owner off include sleeping more than usual, reluctance to go outside and play, discomfort when touched around the hips and lower back and failing to groom.

In both dogs and cats, a change in temperament and general grumpiness may indicate arthritic pain.

Older overweight animals will nearly always suffer some degree of joint pain but younger animals may succumb particularly if they have sustained an injury such as a torn ligament.

If you suspect an animal to be suffering from arthritis then a trip to the vet is the best bet. The vet can usually tell by examining your pet and taking into account the signs you describe. X-rays may have to be taken to confirm the diagnosis and give some idea as to the extent of the problem.

Unfortunately, arthritis is a progressive and incurable condition at this point in time. However, many options are available to make life more comfortable for pets with arthritis. Treatment can range from dietary supplements, which aim to improve joint fluid consistency, to pain killers which provide direct relief from pain and improve mobility. It is important not to give your pet human preparations without consulting your vet as human preparations may cause kidney failure, liver failure and gastric ulceration in animals.

Surgical alternatives are sometimes available for arthritis (particularly of the hip joints) and may be a viable option although they tend to be very expensive.

One of the most vital factors in helping an animal with arthritis is weight reduction. Special diets are available from your vet to assist in weight reduction.

Exercise is important to both help your pet loose weight and improve activity. Short frequent exercise is more beneficial than long periods which may lead to stiffness and pain.

Cats can be exercised by playing with them. A favourite toy is often the best way to get your cat to play.

All in all, there are so many options for helping an animal with arthritis pain that there is no need for them to suffer in silence. Owners who endeavour to assist their animals are often greatly rewarded, reporting their pets to “have a new lease on life” or start “acting like a puppy again”.

And that is always great to see!!!!!