We all go through changes as we age, and our pet partners are no exception. We all start to
feel those popping joints first thing in the morning, stiffness when it rains, and general
reluctance to actually force yourself to move because your knees just aren’t feeling like
bending right that day. Our cats and dogs can feel the same way, but are either expertly
hiding that discomfort, or just get so excited that they push themselves more than they
should, which can make things a bit worse.
We have a name for this chronic joint pain; Osteoarthritis (OA), or in worse cases,
degenerative joint disease (DJD). The bright side? We also have a solution!
The first and hardest part is just identifying that our pets are in pain. Some of the things we
can look for exactly what you might be expecting, like limping, protecting a specific body
part, difficulty getting up or on stairs, or stiffness when walking. But some of the other
signs they give us are more difficult to interpret, like restlessness and repeatedly getting up
and down, not wanting to be held, hiding, scratching at one particular area, accidents in the
house, progressive lethargy, or out of character aggression towards people or other
animals. Once we know the signs and what our pets are actually communicating with us,
it’s time to head to the veterinarian get it checked out.
So now you’ve seen the signs, and your veterinarian confirms it – your furry family member
has arthritis! Now what? You love your pet and don’t want them to be uncomfortable!
The good news is we have a huge array of options! One of the most impactful changes we
can make is weight loss. We all love spoiling our pets, and food is usually a big part of that,
but keeping them as lean as possible is incredibly important. It minimizes both the
mechanical strain as well as inflammatory component that fat itself causes. Another
possibility is using neutraceuticals, which are supplements designed to function as building
blocks to normal cartilage, decrease the effects of destructive enzymes, and help lubricate
joints. Then there are pharmaceuticals, which are our pain medications. There are many
that we can use long term, as long as they are regularly monitored with exams and lab
work. It’s very common to have our middle aged to geriatric pets to be on chronic
medications for their comfort!
If your fur family member seems to need just a bit more, we also always have the
increasingly popular option of rehabilitation – just like a person going to a physical
therapist. This can include not only in-office and at home exercise regimens, but also cold
laser therapy or acupuncture. Be sure to have a discussion with your veterinarian to
determine what’s the best option for you, your pet, and your family. We have the ability to
keep our pets out of chronic arthritis pain, and make them feel as young as possible for as
long as possible!