How to Prevent and Help a Dog with Arthritis
It’s getting cooler, so what does this mean for our pets in Australia?
For our pets it's usually in the cooler months we start to see the first signs of arthritis, particularly in our older pets.
Inflammation of the joint can occur at any age but what I will focus on here is degenerative arthritis that is often seen as stiffness in the walk, unwilling to rise easily from a comfy bed, not wanting to jump up on the couch and becoming slower on walks. For our cat patients, it can reveal itself as an unwillingness to jump up on the bench or higher places, fur matting over the hind end as they cannot twist and turn to groom themselves like they have in the past or just spending more time in warmer places around the house.
If your pet starts to show any of these signs then head to your vet for a thorough physical exam and possibly x-rays to reveal underlying causes including arthritis. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body and the longer those joints are inflamed the worse the damage can become. Treatment of arthritis, which is dependent on where the arthritis is and what type of arthritis it is, but in this case when talking about degenerative arthritis focuses on slowing the progression of the disease and management of the condition. There are a number of factors that contribute to the development of arthritis but also we can modify these factors to slow the advancement of it too.
Some of these are:
A weighty problem - dogs and cats that are overweight are more likely to suffer from joint disease later in life as they are carrying the extra load through their joints. Simply by reducing your pet’s weight, you are slowing the progression of osteoarthritis. Obese pets are actually 3 x more likely to develop bone and joint disease. They also find it difficult to exercise if they are carrying extra weight so it becomes a nasty cycle and as the disease progresses simple movements actually become painful for your pet.
Lifestyle choice - young and super active dogs and cats are more likely to develop arthritis later in life too. Spending 8 years jumping for the ball every day or leaping around excessively as a young dog can put the joints under stress which in turn leads to inflammation and then bony changes within the joints later on. This doesn’t mean your pet needs to stop being active, we can just modify their exercise and be aware of the risks involved.
So, what can you do at home to help prevent arthritis occurring?
Maintain your pet’s ideal weight. Not sure what this is? Give your vet a call and find out. A lot of the time this is easier said than done, but there are some formulated diets that specifically target weight loss. A leaner pet will live longer, be more comfortable and enthusiastic and suffer fewer illnesses.
Modify their exercise. Try to avoid excessive jumping and spinning in the air and exchange for flat surface exercise such as running at the beach, gentle slopes are ok as are agility courses but if doing this regularly then it is best to start some natural products to help slow the disease process.
Consider starting fish oil and other preventative therapies. Fish oil has proven benefits in assisting joint inflammation. Other therapies that are gaining momentum include turmeric, glucosamine, chondroitin and green lipped mussel. Your vet may also advise starting a course of Pentosan which has its benefits too.
Remember if in doubt, get an arthritis assessment done by your vet and firstly make sure your pet is in a healthy weight range as this can reduce signs of stiffness and arthritis dramatically! Stay tuned for more info next month.