Arthritis Does Not Just Affect Humans But Our Pets Too
With World Arthritis Day having been marked this month (October 12), it is not only humans who suffer from the debilitating effects of arthritis but pets and of course animals at large. They too can live with this same disease that causes swelling and pain in the joints. A senior veterinary surgeon in the UK, Elaine Pendlebury, explains: “In healthy pets a smooth protective layer of cartilage covers the joint surfaces, which are bathed in a fluid that acts like a lubricant. But as our pets get older a number of changes can occur to the cartilage and fluid, which can cause swelling and pain in the joints.”
Signs of arthritis in pets especially dogs
- Lameness. You may see your pet limping or favoring one or more of his legs, depending on which legs and which joints are arthritic. In some cases, the limp may seem worse first thing, becoming less noticeable as your pet “warms up” by moving around.
- Difficulty moving. Your pet may also become reluctant to do things that were previously easy for him to accomplish such getting in and out of your car or experiencing difficult in going up and down the stairs. Arthritic cats may stop jumping onto counter tops, perches and other high areas because it becomes too uncomfortable.
- Spinal issues. In addition to the legs, arthritic changes can also occur in the various parts of the spine. These changes may result in a sore neck, an abnormal posture with a “hunch” in the back or lameness of one or both hind legs.
- Tiredness. Your pet may tire more easily. For dogs this can mean that walks become shorter and more painful or your pet may spend more time sleeping and resting.
- Irritability. Arthritic animals may become irritable, even snapping or biting when approached or handled.
- Muscle atrophy. Inactivity and decreased use of the muscles can lead to muscle atrophy. A pet with atrophied muscles in their legs will have a leg which looks thinner than a normal leg.
- Licking, chewing and biting. Pets affected with arthritis may start these habits in the areas that are painful, even causing inflamed skin and hair loss.
Arthritis in cats can be harder to spot
Cats are masters of hiding discomfort and pain so don't be fooled. They restrict their own activity to minimize the use of the sore joints and so tend not to show the same signs of arthritis as other animals. Many arthritic cats simply become less active. Often, this change in behavior corresponds with the cat becoming older. The owner can feel the change is normal when he may be decreasing his activity level because he is in pain from arthritis.
Other signs of arthritis in a cat
- Stiffness when walking (particularly after a long period of rest).
- Reluctance to play or jump.
- In cats, their coat quality may deteriorate as they are less able to groom and they may find it difficult to climb into their litter tray or through their cat flap.
Arthritis is relatively common in cats. A vet can diagnose it by X-raying the joints, although changes in mobility and an inability to jump are the first signs.
Prevention of arthritis in pets
Ensuring your pet maintains a healthy weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of arthritis developing. For dogs, daily exercise including playing and time spent safely off the lead, is essential for health and general well being. For cats, spending time playing with them and providing activities that encourage exercise.
How can you help your pet to have a better quality of life when suffering from arthritis?There is a lot you can do to improve your pet's chances of enjoying life once more in spite of arthritis. The link to this site on how to treat arthritis in dogs naturally will explain the importance of detoxing your dog, changing to a wholesome raw or cooked diet with vegetables and raw bones in place of commercial dog food and even supplementing with vitamins and omega oils. Many dog owners fail to recognize injuries. Falls, slips and slides often lead to undetected injuries which can turn into chronic muscle spasms and weaknesses. Many of us are unaware that dogs are built mainly for trotting and walking with the exception of brief intense sprints chasing prey animals. Instead modern dogs frequently suffer injuries from exercise such as extended periods of ball retrieving, jumping up, chasing frisbees or too much swimming.
Helping your cat too
- Provide a soft, comfortable bed placed in easily accessible, quiet, draft-free location. An 'igloo bed' can make an older cat feel warm and secure.
- Consider the provision of a series of 'steps' or a ramp to allow cats to access favored higher sites.
- If your cat has access to the outdoors, make sure the cat flap is very easy to open or prop it open.
- Always have a litter tray inside and one that has at least one low side for easy access.
- Make sure food and water are easily accessible, at floor level or with steps up to higher levels.
- Spend time grooming and cleaning an arthritic cat yourself as this may be difficult for him to accomplish.
- Overgrown claws need regular cutting.