Just as in humans, arthritis is a condition that can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness in joints.
There are several causes; sometimes arthritis may be a result of an old injury (for instance a road traffic accident), or the joint may become damaged simply through wear and tear because of old age.
If you have noticed any of the changes below in your cat or dog, you should consult your vet and consider arranging a check up for assessment of arthritis.
Reduction in mobility
- Difficulty in jumping into car/chair or climbing stairs
- Limping or stiffness
- Difficulty in getting up or going through the cat door
Reduction in activity
- Reluctance to walk or play
- Sleeping/resting more, especially in one place
Changes in grooming habits
- Unusual licking sometimes leading to bald areas
- Chewing at joints
- Matted, scruffy coat
Changes in temperament
- Less tolerant towards children and/or other dogs
- Reduced interaction with you/family
- Increased anxiety/clinginess
Although arthritis is usually associated with pain and stiffness in the joints, it is often only after the pain has been relieved, and your dog or cat has renewed mobility, that you may come to realise just how stiff he/she had become.
The medical care of arthritis in pets has advanced rapidly in recent years. There is every reason to expect that your cat or dog can be comfortable in later life- they do not need to be “slow because they are old”
- Being overweight can put extra strain on your pet’s old joints. Weight loss is the most successful intervention in helping with arthritis.
- Bear in mind that if your dog has poor joints you may not succeed in getting your dog to 'walk off' any excess food intake, so a reduction in food is usually necessary. Regular, GENTLE exercise is a real help as it helps prevent the joints from stiffening up and maintains mobility so your dog can remain active.
- Cats are even harder to exercise so a diet is definitely required if they are overweight
- If your dog or cat does have painful arthritis your vet may recommend treatment with an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) like metacam.
- NSAIDs are very effective at reducing the pain and stiffness that your dog may suffer from and will greatly improve his/her quality of life. A blood test will usually be required to ensure it is a safe medication. Other pain relief options are available if an NSAID cannot be used.