Have you noticed changes in your pet’s behaviour heading into the colder months?
Arthritis is a painful condition involving inflammation in one or more joints. Not solely a condition affecting humans, it commonly occurs in dogs, cats and birds, as well as several other animals. Cold weather can worsen stiff joints and muscles, often causing pain and therefore making arthritis more obvious during winter. So if you’ve noticed your pet has been acting different recently, it may be more than just winter blues!
Arthritis is very common in older animals, but being overweight can also play a role. Every extra kilo an animal is carrying is equivalent to 5kgs of weight going through each joint! Weight gain can be a vicious cycle for animals. It causes joint stress and then that stress amplifies joint inflammation. This inflammation in turn will cause more pain, reducing mobility and activity, which can lead to even more weight gain. It's therefore very important to ensure your pet is in peak condition and not carrying any unnecessary weight.
Arthritis is a progressive disease that has no cure. However, there are several things we can do to help slow down the progression of the disease and keep pets as comfortable as possible. That’s why it's important to identify and treat any signs as early as possible.
Early signs of arthritis include behavioural changes such as:
- Being less happy or playful
- Occasional stiffness
- Difficulty rising from bed or laying down
- A reluctance to exercise
- Sleeping more
- Slowing down or wanting to go on shorter walks
Affected cats may stop grooming themselves or be reluctant to jump to their favourite spots. As the disease progresses, your pet may start to limp and show signs of pain around their joints, such as snapping or yelping when touched.
So, what can we do to help our furry friends?
Your veterinarian will create an arthritis management plan. It will be tailored to your pet’s needs, but could include the following components:
- Regular check-ups (assessing range of movement in joints, X-ray option)
- Introduction of diet or supplements
- Introduction of Disease Modifying Osteoarthritis Drug
- Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs
- Environmental changes
- Complimentary therapy, such as acupuncture