Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that affects the joints, causing painful inflammation and decreased mobility. Arthritis damages joint cartilage, causing bones to rub against each other. Over time, this bone-on-bone contact causes more bone tissue to grow and create jagged edges (i.e., bone spurs). As this condition progresses, your pet’s mobility is greatly impaired, decreasing their quality of life. However, you can help your four-legged friend manage their arthritis at home, and our Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital team’s tips describe how you can help your pet remain comfortable. The first step in managing your pet’s arthritis is recognizing this debilitating condition’s signs.
Arthritis signs in pets
Arthritis is a progressive condition that you may not realize your pet has until their joint damage has become advanced. Pets’ early arthritis signs include:
- Difficulty getting up after lying down
- Reluctance to engage in regular activities
- Limping after exercise
- Decreased activity and endurance
- Difficulty using stairs or jumping
- Weight gain
- Decreased appetite
- Panting while at rest
- Pain when touched or petted
- Excessive licking of a particular area
- Difficulty urinating and defecating
If your pet shows any of these signs, schedule an exam so our team can determine the extent of their joint degeneration, and to rule out other adverse health conditions.
Tips for managing your pet’s arthritis at home
While you cannot cure your pet’s arthritis, you can help keep your furry pal comfortable and mobile by making some changes in your home and routine. Follow our eight tips to help manage your pet’s arthritis.
#1: Choose low-impact activities for your pet
If your dog lives to spring up and catch a Frisbee, encourage them to take it down a notch, and begin to enjoy low-impact activities. Excessive jumping and sudden starts and stops strain your pet’s joints, causing joint cartilage deterioration. Pets who perform strenuous activity from a young age are predisposed to arthritis, which can make exercise more painful. If your pet has arthritis signs, stick to low-impact activities—swimming and walking on soft surfaces—to help cushion your pet’s joints.
#2: Use ramps to help your pet access furniture and bypass stairs
Pets who have arthritis often have difficulty trotting up and down stairs and leaping up to their favorite comfy spot on a sofa or chair. Install ramps to help decrease your pet’s pain and improve their ability to access furniture and bypass stairs. With practice, your pet will be able to use a ramp to reach their favorite napping place and access the backyard.
#3: Elevate your pet’s food and water dishes
Arthritis commonly affects large dogs’ knees and hips, and cats’ elbows and wrists. To eliminate your pet’s need to crouch down to eat and drink, elevate their food and water dishes. Double check that the stand is at a comfortable level for your pet, because a stand that is too high can also strain your pets’ arthritic joints.
#4: Give your pet joint supplements
While joint supplements cannot repair damaged cartilage, they can protect and preserve remaining cartilage. Our team recommends administering a joint supplement to your pet before they begin showing arthritis signs. However, joint supplements effective at reducing joint inflammation and pain are also available for advanced arthritis stages.
#5: Provide your pet with supportive bedding
A soft, plush bed sinks to the floor, providing your arthritic pet little cushion for their aching joints. Pets who have arthritis need firm orthopedic beds that offer thick padding between stiff, sore limbs and the floor.
#6: Ensure your pet has traction on smooth flooring
Tile, hardwood, and laminate flooring provide little traction when your pet is trying to protect their aching joints as they walk. If your arthritic pet has an unsteady gait or limp, they may have difficulty finding purchase on slick floors, and you should apply traction aids—carpet runners and yoga mats—in heavily traveled spots. You can also apply a friction aid to your pet’s paw pads, or toe grips to their nails to help them keep their balance.
#7: Help your pet maintain a healthy weight
Ensuring your pet maintains a healthy weight is the best strategy for reducing their arthritis pain. Excess weight puts substantial pressure on already sore joints, increasing the wear and tear on damaged cartilage. To help your arthritic pet thrive, give them a low-calorie diet packed with joint health ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin.
#8: Discuss pain relief options with your Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital veterinarian
You can do only so much at home to manage your pet’s arthritis pain, so partner with our Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital team, and provide your pet with a two-pronged arthritis care approach. We can prescribe anti-inflammatory and pain medications, discuss prescription joint-health diets, and recommend alternative pain-management therapies.