Arthritis and Your Pet

That stiff, sore feeling you get in the joints when you get up in the morning, well, your dog can get it as well. Just like people, pets can suffer from arthritis. Any animal can. They’ve even found fossil evidence of it affecting dinosaurs! And it’s a lot more common than you may think, up to 4 out of 5 dogs will be affected by it.

There are several things to look for in a pet that has arthritis:
1. They are stiff and reluctant to get up in the morning. Over the day they work themselves out of it.
2. They have trouble jumping up on the couch or into the car.
3. Trouble going up the stairs.
4. Overall enthusiasm for exercise decreased.
5. Changes in their mood or posture.
6. Cats may start urinating just outside their litter box if it has a high side as they are unable to jump over it into the litter box any more.

Often people will attribute these changes to the animal “just getting old”, but they are more likely a sign of joint disease. Because the chronic pain caused by arthritis can come on slowly, is consistent and low intensity it can be hard to recognize.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. It is a progressive disease that gets worse with age. There are things we can do, however, to slow down this progression and manage it. In return, it will help your dog feel more comfortable.

One thing we can do is keep our furry friends a healthy weight. Studies in both human and animal medicine have shown that too much body weight is not good for arthritis. Overweight dogs put more stress on their joints and so are more prone to develop arthritis.

Diet and dietary supplements play a significant role in managing arthritis as well. There is a lot of (mis)information out there about various supplements, but the ones I recommend are glucosamine as well as omega 3 & 6 fatty acids. There are specialized diets available as well which include these supplements.

In more advanced cases anti-inflammatories and pain medications are indicated. Any medication we give we want to ensure is under the guidance of a veterinarian. Some dogs will only need them on an as-needed basis, whereas others need to get them more regularly. For any dog on long-term anti-inflammatories, we do recommend bloodwork every six months to monitor their health and to ensure any conditions haven’t developed which could mean these medications would be contraindicated. The important thing here is that we do NOT want to use human medicine as they can be harmful to our pets.

Arthritis is a big topic, and there is a lot involved in managing it, more than can be put into such a short blog. If you are looking for more information, is a UK based website with lots of useful information.

If you think your pet has arthritis, give us a call or bring your dog in as we can tailor any therapy specifically for them.

Written by: Dr. David Baker, Veterinarian