Arthritis is as uncomfortable for our pets as it is for humans and it doesn’t discriminate by species! All senior pets including dog, cats and rabbits are known to suffer with the condition. Arthritis literally means “inflammation of the joints” and is common with age, but can develop earlier in life secondary to other problems like joint ligament damage.
Signs of Arthritis
We commonly see changes to our pets’ mobility as a result of arthritis. Things to look out for include:
- Ability and willingness to climb stairs
- Ability and willingness to jump to a raised height (e.g. into the car, on to the sofa, or up to a counter top for cats)
- Stiffness, particularly in the mornings or after walks
- Reduced willingness to exercise and run (or hop!) around
- Any changes to walking pattern
- Behaviour changes, including aggression
- Difficulty getting comfortable
- Pacing at night
- Muscle loss
- A dirty or wet bottom for rabbits
- General ‘slowing up’ with age
Every animal is an individual and will present with different signs: it is important to note that most animals will not vocalise pain from arthritis. Symptoms are wide ranging and could even be confused with other diseases, so make sure to get your pet checked by a vet.
Management of arthritis is wide ranging and includes lifestyle and diet changes for your pet as well as joint supplementation and anti-inflammatory medications in some cases. Our vets will develop a personalised management plan with you for you pets, but treatment and management options could include:
- Weight management (our nurses run free weight clinics to help you if this were required for your pet)
- Environment adaptions such as: avoiding slippery flooring; providing ramps to the sofa or other areas of height; moving rabbit or cat litter trays so they are more easily accessible; brushing your rabbit daily because they may find grooming more difficult and increase their risk of fly strike; avoiding the cold which will exacerbate arthritis symptoms in all species
- Modifying exercise to ‘little and often’ approach rather than long walks for dogs
- Complementary therapies such as hydrotherapy or veterinary physiotherapy
- Evidence-based and scientifically approved diet supplementation to support joint health
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Additional pain relief or surgery may be required in more advanced cases
For dog-specific advice, take a look at the Canine Arthritis Management website: https://caninearthritis.co.uk/. Our nurses also offer complimentary senior pet clinics to help you and your pet transition in to the more distinguished stage of their life!